KOLKATA: The sector regulator has broadened the scope of telecom infrastructure or `tower service’ providers, recommending that they be allowed to engage in partial active infrastructure sharing, limited to radio access network (RAN) gear only and not licensed spectrum resources.

“Multi-operator radio access network (MORAN) sharing, which is a form of RAN sharing, would be permitted under the proposed enhancement of scope of infrastructure providers Category-I registration,” wherein “only RAN equipment is shared but not spectrum,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said in its recommendations Friday on widening the operational scope of telecom tower companies.

The RAN sharing, it said, “is a form of active-sharing” but the “IP-I registration holder “(read: telecom tower company) should not be eligible to apply for assignment of any kind of licenced spectrum”.

Trai said the expanded scope of telecom infrastructure providers should “not include use of licensed spectrum assigned to an eligible telco for provisioning wireless services”.

The sector regulator also recommended that tower service providers, under their expanded scope of operations, be allowed to own, establish, maintain and work on infrastructure items, equipment, and systems required for setting up wireline networks, RAN, and transmission links. But it said tower firms cannot own or set up core network elements such as switches, mobile switching centres (MSCs), home location registers (HLR), intelligent networks.

Further, Trai said tower firms must not be allowed to provision end-to-end bandwidth using transmission systems to customers other than telcos. Likewise, it had recommended that tower firms be barred from providing any non-telco customers access to telecom infrastructure equipment/systems.

The sector regulator has also recommended that tower infrastructure providers use equipment adhering to standards mandated by Telecom Engineering Centre – the technical wing of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). In absence of TEC standards, they should use gear that comply with requirements specified by global telecom agencies such as the International Telecom Organisation (ITU), European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), IEEE and International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), it added.

Last August, Trai had floated a discussion paper, seeking stakeholders’ comments on whether the scope of tower infrastructure providers ought to be widened to include provisioning of common or sharable active infrastructure such as nodes and radio access networks.

It had also sought views on whether telecom tower firms should be allowed to provide end-to-end bandwidth through leased lines to telcos. The consultation paper had come in the aftermath of India’s big-bang ambitions around 5G, which will require a dense and upgraded networks. It had also come on the heels of India’s net telecom policy, the National Digital Communications Policy 2018, that aims to improve broadband access and overall digital infrastructure.

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