DoT Secy Calls on States to Accelerate Clearances for Uninterrupted Coverage for Field Personnel

Photo: Connect

Telecom secretary Anshu Prakash has urged all states and union territories (UTs) to accelerate the clearance of telco, Tower Operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) field personnel across India in the face of the deadly second wave of Covid19, to provide unrestricted mobile and broadband access.

“….telecommunications being an essential service, it is requested that all personnel engaged in providing and maintaining mobile, internet and telecom infrastructure services be issued the necessary permissions and passes, including for travel by local train/public transport, to enable all (consumers) to stay connected, even in the eventuality of lockdowns and restrictions on movement imposed by states and UTs,” Prakash said in identical letters, dated April 27, to all state chief secretaries.

He added that the Telecoms department is confident that the assistance and facilities for “all states and UTs will be extended” in order to allow continuous services and services in connection with the interchange and repair of telephones, mobile switching centres, network operating centres, information centres.

Prakash has recently coaxed the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) to force states and UTs to acknowledge telecommunications as an important utility and to ensure its continued available services even in the course of country-wide lock-downs.

“We have received references from the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and the Tower & Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), requesting us to take up with states and UTs to recognise telecom as an essential service and provide the necessary assistance to enable uninterrupted services,” Prakash said in his letter.

A senior telco manager stated that “DoT interference is crucial,” because the operators are facing major challenges when obtaining required e-passes/approvals through state portals for their field engineers’ unhindered movement in the midst of recent lockdowns.

The COAI represents Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm and Vodafone Idea (Vi), while TAIPA represents Indus Towers, ATC, Summit Digitel, Ascend, and Tower Vision amongst others.

Telcos and tower operators have also recently requested support from DoT to ensure that its main field personnel are able to function openly on the frontlines and are exempt of any limitation in the second wave of the Covid-19. They cautioned that field engineers could not access critical sites, or retrofit and maintain work without these exemptions, that could lead to a breakdown of mobile and internet connectivity across states.