Telecom infrastructure providers build wireless telecom towers, the base stations on them, lay out fiber, and the duct space that’s needed to support that fiber. They are now included under the telecom department’s right of way rules. This is something that infrastructure providers have been demanding for the two years since the rules were first announced. The DOT announced the inclusion in a circular on Tuesday. TAIPA, a union of telecom infrastructure companies, hailed the decision, with its director general saying in a statement that the clarification will “provide impetus, required thrust and augurs extremely positive [sic] for upcoming technologies like 5G, AI, IoT, M2M and VR.”

Why this matters

The right of way rules that the telecom department issued in 2016 aimed at making life easier for telecom companies, who have many hurdles when building out infrastructure. One recurring challenge is municipalities and communities raising the scientifically unbacked concern of ‘radiation’ affecting their health. The right of way rules makes it easier for telecom companies to deal with local municipalities in things like land allocation and permits. Now that infrastructure providers are included in these rules, they’ll face fewer hurdles in laying out more towers, base stations, and fiber. Note that these companies are not allowed to directly provide telecom services to users.

This development is especially important for a technology like 5G. There’s only so much speeds can improve when the telecom equipment delivering data is stuck at one tower or one base station. Technologies like cooperative MIMO use a variety of base stations to improve speeds, and installing this equipment will require a lot more land and permits. This is where the right of way rules come in. They give municipalities fixed timelines to approve or reject permit applications, and allow filing these requests online.

It’s not just wireless technologies. Take something like an apartment complex. The idea that every building needs a telecom duct has not really gained a lot of steam in India. Dark fiber, which can be leased out to internet providers, is an essential part of broadband growth; and building dark fiber now has fewer obstacles. In that environment, apartments and other buildings may face more pressure to allow that infrastructure into their premises.