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Licensing and Regulation of Submarine Cable Landing in India

  • 23 Jun 2023
  • 4 min read

Why in News?

The Department of Telecom (DoT) raised concerns about Indian International Long-Distance Operators (ILDOs) without any stake in submarine cable systems seeking clearances for laying and maintaining submarine cables in India.

What are the Recommendations of TRAI?

  • Two Categories of CLS:
    • Amending the ILD/ISP-A (international long distance/Internet service provider Category A) permits to include two categories of Cable Landing Station (CLS) locations — Main CLS and CLS “point of presence”.
      • Main CLS facility be mandated to seek all approvals for an international submarine cable (SMC) landing in India.
      • CLS ‘point of presence’ needs to allow lawful interception and meet the requisite security drill.
  • Critical and Essential Service:
    • The submarine cable operations should be recognized as critical and essential services due to their crucial role in maintaining seamless national and international communication networks.
    • Submarine cable operations should have the highest level of importance for obtaining necessary permissions and security clearances.
  • Proposed Legislative Amendment:
    • Addition of a section on "Submarine cable" and "Cable Landing Station" in the Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022.
      • It will provide legal and regulatory support, contributing to the growth and robustness of the digital communications sector.
  • Custom Duty and GST Exemptions:
    • TRAI proposes exemption from custom duty and GST for goods and items required for CLS, submarine cable operation, and maintenance.
    • This will address critical challenges in the sector, particularly related to cable repair and maintenance.

What is the Significance of the Recommendations?

  • Strengthening Data Flow:
    • TRAI's recommendations have the potential to unlock the full potential of cross-border data flow, fuel innovation, and fortify India's position as a data powerhouse.
  • Reduced Reliance on Foreign Providers:
    • The requirement for Indian entity-owned vessels for undersea cable maintenance will reduce delays and decrease reliance on foreign providers for repairing subsea cables.

What is a Submarine Communications Cable?

  • About:
    • It is a cable laid on the seabed between land-based stations to transmit telecommunication signals across stretches of ocean and sea.
    • Modern submarine cables use fiber-optic technology. The optical fibre elements are typically coated with plastic layers and contained in a protective tube suitable for the environment where the cable will be deployed.
  • Significance:
    • Compared to satellites, using internet connection through submarine cables is more reliable, cost efficient and of larger capacity.
  • Examples:
    • MIST Submarine Cable System (connecting India with Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore)
    • Reliance Jio Infocomm’s India Asia Xpress (IAX) (India to the Maldives, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand)
    • India Europe Xpress (IEX) (India to Italy via Saudi and Greece)
    • SeaMeWe-6 project (Singapore to France via India, Bangladesh, Maldives)
    • Africa2 Cable (India with the UK via several African countries

Source: PIB

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