Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

TRAI suggests norms for Undersea Cables


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: India's Cable Projects

Mains level: Undersea Fibre Optic Cables

undersea cable

Central Idea

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued recommendations on rules governing undersea cables connecting Indian telecom networks to the global internet.
  • These recommendations address concerns raised by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) regarding the participation of Indian firms in undersea cable projects and related regulatory clearances.

What are Undersea Cables?

  • Undersea cables, also known as submarine cables, are fiber optic strands enclosed in protective layers laid on the ocean floor.
  • They are essential for global connectivity, transmitting data and communication signals between continents and nations.
  • These cables form the backbone of international communications infrastructure, ensuring reliable internet connectivity and supporting seamless communication worldwide.
  • They play a pivotal role in facilitating collaboration, trade, and socio-cultural interactions on a global scale.

Key Recommendation by TRAI

(A) Ownership Requirements for Undersea Cables:

  • Proof of Ownership: TRAI recommends that all Indian telecom companies operating undersea cables must demonstrate ownership of the portion of cables located in Indian waters.
  • Significance: This requirement ensures that Indian firms have a stake in undersea cable infrastructure and fosters their active participation in global connectivity.

(B) Distinction between Cable Landing Stations and Points of Presence (PoPs):

  • Differentiation of Facilities: TRAI suggests distinguishing between cable landing stations and PoPs, which are further connected to the stations.
  • Regulatory Simplification: Owners of PoPs would be exempted from multiple clearance requirements but would need to comply with lawful interception regulations.
  • Significance: This differentiation streamlines the regulatory process for telecom companies and promotes ease of doing business.

(C) Allowance for Dark Fiber and Stubs:

  • Dark Fiber Usage: TRAI recommends permitting the use of dark fiber (unused optical fiber) on existing cable landing stations.
  • Use of Stubs: TRAI suggests allowing the installation of stubs, short cables in Indian waters, for potential future expansion and use.
  • Significance: Allowing dark fiber usage and stub installations enhances the flexibility and scalability of undersea cable infrastructure in India.

(D) Financial Viability Models for Repair Vessels

  • Commissioning Indian Flagged Ships: TRAI proposes that a government committee explore financial viability models for commissioning Indian flagged ships for the repair and maintenance of undersea cables.
  • Significance: This promotes indigenous capabilities and supports the growth of the domestic maritime industry.

(E) Domestic Traffic and Terrestrial Networks

  • Permission for Domestic Traffic: TRAI recommends explicitly permitting the carrying of domestic traffic on undersea cables, allowing for connectivity between domestic locations.
  • Extension through Terrestrial Networks: The regulator suggests enabling undersea cable systems to extend further inland through terrestrial networks to facilitate the flow of international traffic.
  • Significance: This improves efficiency and promotes seamless communication within India.

Critical Information Infrastructure Protection

  • Notification of Critical Infrastructure: TRAI proposes notifying undersea cables as critical information infrastructure, making them eligible for protection by the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC).
  • Significance: Recognizing undersea cables as critical infrastructure strengthens their security and safeguards against potential cyber threats.

India’s Cable Projects and Future Expansion

  • India-Asia Xpress (IAX) and India-Europe Xpress (IEX): Reliance Jio is leading these projects, connecting India to Singapore, the Persian Gulf, and Europe. The capacity is around 200 Tbps, with funding from a consortium including Facebook and Google.
  • MIST: This cable will link Mumbai and Cochin in India to Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. It has a capacity of 218 Tbps and is scheduled for operation in 2024.
  • Blue-Raman: Connecting Italy, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and India, this cable bypasses the Egyptian chokepoint. It has a capacity of over 200 Tbps and is funded by a consortium led by Google.
  • SEA-ME-WE 6: Upgrading the link from Singapore to Marseille, this cable spans 19,200 km with a capacity of 126 Tbps. It is scheduled to be operational in 2025 and involves a consortium of telecommunications companies.
  • 2 Africa Pearl: Extending from India and Pakistan, this cable orbits Africa, connecting 33 nations across three continents. It has a capacity of 180 Tbps and is funded by a consortium that includes Facebook and China Mobile.

India’s Significance in Undersea Connectivity

  • Growing digital economy: India’s rapidly expanding digital market and high data usage make it a significant consumer and provider of global data connectivity.
  • Strategic location: Situated at the crossroads of major regions, India serves as a vital link connecting Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East through undersea cable networks.
  • Technical expertise: India boasts a large pool of skilled professionals in the tech industry, enabling it to actively participate in the development, deployment, and maintenance of undersea cables.
  • Rising global influence: With its projected economic growth, population size, and geopolitical significance, India’s increasing influence positions it as a key player in shaping the future of undersea cable connectivity.
  • Connectivity expansion: India’s efforts to enhance domestic and international connectivity, coupled with its focus on improving infrastructure and regulatory frameworks, contribute to its importance in undersea cable networks.


  • TRAI’s recommendations on undersea cables aim to enhance the participation of Indian firms, simplify regulatory processes, and strengthen the security and efficiency of undersea cable infrastructure in India.
  • These recommendations promote the growth of the telecom industry and support the country’s digital connectivity goals.

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