Telecom Regulatory Authority of India calls for legislation to protect undersea cables and landing stations from ‘critical assets’

TRAI recommends various measures including legislative amendments, granting essential services status, online permits, supervision by Defense Ministry, and waiving right-of-way charges to promote submarine cables and cable landing stations in India.

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended measures to promote, protect, and prioritise submarine cables and cable landing stations (CLS) in India. TRAI suggests adding a section to the Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022, to ensure the importance of these assets. They also propose granting ‘essential services’ status to the operation and maintenance of CLS and submarine cables. It is also recommended that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) ensures that State governments offer incentives exclusively to category-A licensees in the international long-distance/internet service provider (ILD/ISP) sector.

The regulator also recommends that permits related to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Coastal Zone (CRZ) can also be done online under the Saral Sanchar portal. Furthermore, the authority suggests that data collection surveys should be supervised by the Defense Ministry and licensee officials rather than the Department of Telecom (DoT) officials. TRAI reiterates their previous recommendation for other coastal states to consider incentives and facilitations for setting up CLS. Finally, the proposal suggests that right-of-way charges for laying and maintaining optical fiber cable infrastructure to CLS be waived, with the aim of encouraging the establishment of new CLS for submarine cables.