TRAI suggests norms for undersea cables

The telecom regulator also suggested that undersea cables should come under the scope of the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC)

June 20, 2023 09:17 pm | Updated 09:53 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had sought TRAI’s inputs on a specific concern: whether Indian firms without a major stake in undersea cables, usually built by high-powered global consortiums, should be allowed to apply for clearances acting alone. (For Representational purpose only)

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had sought TRAI’s inputs on a specific concern: whether Indian firms without a major stake in undersea cables, usually built by high-powered global consortiums, should be allowed to apply for clearances acting alone. (For Representational purpose only) | Photo Credit: Velankanni Raj. B

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on June 20 issued recommendations on rules for undersea cables connecting Indian telecom networks to the global Internet.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had sought TRAI’s inputs on a specific concern: whether Indian firms without a major stake in undersea cables, usually built by high-powered global consortiums, should be allowed to apply for clearances acting alone.

To this, TRAI recommended that all Indian telcos operating undersea cables be required to submit proof that they own at least the part of undersea cables that is in Indian waters. The telecom regulator expanded the scope of its response to the telecom department though, saying that it came up with more recommendations on related topics ‘suo motu’.

For instance, TRAI suggested that a distinction be drawn between a cable landing station, and so-called ‘points of presence’ to which the station is further connected. Owners of the latter type of facility wouldn’t have to apply for several clearances, but would need to comply with lawful interception requirements.

The regulator also submitted that ‘dark fibre’ should be permitted on existing cable landing stations, and that ‘stubs’ — short cables in Indian waters for potential future expansion and use — be permitted. Noting that repair vessels for undersea cables are usually foreign ships, TRAI also suggested that a government committee look into “different financial viability models” for Indian flagged ships to be commissioned for this work. 

TRAI further suggested that carrying domestic traffic on undersea cables — such as from Mumbai to Chennai — should be explicitly permitted in terms of the licence. Cable systems should be able to continue further inland through terrestrial networks, the regulator said, such that international traffic, that is not terminating in India, can go through Indian land, instead of skirting the subcontinent. 

Finally, the regulator suggested that undersea cables be notified as critical information infrastructure, and thus benefit from protection by the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC).

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