COAI urges DoT to extend timelines for minimum roll-out obligation by 6-9 months

New Delhi: Industry body COAI has urged the telecom department to consider extending the timelines for minimum roll-out obligation by at least 6 to 9 months, saying it would be difficult to complete many of the “complex” activities due to the lockdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. The Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) said it would be unfair if the telecom operators were to suffer from any of stipulated penalties “for a situation that can at best be described as Force Majeure”.

“We request the DoT to kindly consider extending the currently specified timelines for minimum roll-out obligation by a period of at least 6 to 9 months so that relief is afforded to all forthcoming minimum roll-out obligation timelines and not just to those due for testing at this present point in time,” COAI said in a recent letter to Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

Noting that the DoT circulars suspending the registration and testing related to roll-out obligation of telcos (initially till March 31, April 30 and subsequently till May 31), the association said the industry had, however, requested for relaxation and extension for meeting all forthcoming minimum roll-out obligation (MRO) timelines by further 6-9 months as it would be difficult to complete many activities leading to registration and testing, due to the lockdown.

The entire process of MRO entails multiple critical and complex activities. The fulfilment of MRO testing itself requires going through multiple steps where time is of essence, including site acquisition and approvals required from various local bodies, arranging maps, which requires interaction with state government/municipal authorities, coordinating with various partners for drive-tests/self-testing, preparation of exhaustive test reports, and submission of reports.

“The above steps are a big challenge in the current environment owing to the strict restrictions imposed by the state governments and various municipal authorities…To further complicate matters, there are delays in import of network equipment which are stuck at various ports across the globe, resulting in critical delays in planned roll out and deployments,” COAI said in the letter dated April 30.

As a result of the difficulties faced and the interdependencies of the various steps involved, there is critical time loss happening from delays in each of these activities and MRO being a time-bound activity with huge penalties for delay, it would be “unfair” if the operators were to suffer from any of these penalties in the current situation, COAI added.

Source Article

Lois C. Ferrara

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