A new Telecom Policy which will be application driven as compared to the 2012 National Telecom Policy 2012 which was connectivity driven will soon be ready. This was indicated by Communications Minister Manoj Sinha while speaking at a seminar. The new policy has to be focused on the end users and should look at the newer opportunities for expanding the availability of Telecom services. He said the advent of high-speed data services and enhanced expectations of the users to get real time on-demand bandwidth to run near real time live applications had prompted the Ministry to prepare new policies.
The Minister said there had been a six-fold increase in data traffic in India rom 561 million GB in the first quarter to 2988 million GB in the third quarter of 2016-17, which was a whopping 400 per cent jump. He said that for the first time, the Ministry had decided to involve a large pool of experts from outside the department to get more inputs from the citizens and stakeholders for the new policy.
He said the communications Sector had assumed the position of an essential infrastructure for socio-economic development in an increasingly knowledge-intensive world. He said as of April 2017, the country had close to 1.2 billion telephone connections, including 1.17 billion wireless telephone connections and similarly witnessed the rapid growth of the broadband connections now stands at 276.52 million.
Sinha said that while service providers are rapidly deploying the 4 G technology, his focus is on the need to expand the connectivity to all parts including the north-eastern and Left Wing Extremism affected areas; and to keep an eye on future generation that is 5G technology and ensure that India plays a key role in standards development and get a healthy share of the innovations and patents in the 5G technology pool.
He said the FDI equity inflow in telecom sector from April 2016 to March 2017 was US $ 5564 million, which is more than four times the average inflow of about 1.3 billion dollars every year since 2013-14. The Minister said the information superhighways are a must for growth in the 21st century. He said the Indian Telegraph Right of Way Rules 2016 had been notified to ease the cable laying approval process and helps in Ease of Doing Business for Telecom Service Providers.
The Department of Telecom has announced the ‘Central Equipment Identity Register’ to pave the way for setting up of International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) based device registration and authentication that will settle the cases of Mobile Phone Theft to a great extent. The department is also actively considering the TRAI recommendations on addressing Telecom Consumer Grievances and urged the officers to propose a state-of-the-art technology driven solution that records, monitors and provides end-to-end monitoring of every grievance.
Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said the world was looking at India as the next growth engine to grow from 7.6 percent to above 10 percent and this required huge effort by both the government and the private sector. She urged the Department of Telecom to become an Engine of Transformation and to act as infrastructure builder rather than a regulator.
Domestic manufacturer to receive a boost
The new telecom policy (NTP) will include a package to boost domestic manufacturing of equipment to cut dependence on imports and create local jobs, Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said. She said work on the policy blueprint is likely to start after the September 8 meeting of the Telecom Commission — the highest decision making body for telecom sector.
The NTP roadmap will be placed before the inter-ministerial panel this week, she said. “Big thrust of the policy is Internet for all and second is Make in India.” To begin with, the policy draft will be placed in public domain for wider consultations by December or January, she said. If India has to reduce dependency on import, there is need to encourage local telecom companies to not just make for India but also for overseas markets like the Middle East, Asia and Africa, she said. “It will have to be enabling environment which can catalyze on Make in India. We will be strengthening the preferential market access policy. As we develop local capability for manufacturing we will be ensuring that more and more manufacturing happens here,” Sundararajan said.
Licensing may get easier
The Centre will consider including a ‘one-nation one-license’ regime in the new telecom policy that is set to come out next year, Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said. The move, if implemented, is likely to remove the distinction between local and STD calls, as service providers will not need separate licenses for operations in various parts of the country. A single license would suffice.
The Secretary, who met representatives from the industry, including operators, infrastructure providers, equipment makers and handset makers to discuss the new policy, assured them that the government was committed to bringing in changes that would enhance the ease of doing business. During the meeting, a representative from Bharti Airtel said it was time that bifurcations around the types of licenses and geographical split (telecom circles and service areas) were done away with. “There will have to be a significant amount of rewriting and administrative reform in the Telecom Ministry so that we are able to actually move to some of the things like one nation (one network and one license policy),” Ms. Sundararajan said.
Creation of ‘one-nation one-license’ policy across services and service areas, was also the one of the objectives of the National Telecom Policy 2012. “I am not saying that all this will be done overnight, but what I am saying is that we will endeavor to put it into the policy, so that those things that need to be done in a calibrated manner, we will provide the necessary movement. Others can be the low hanging fruit and they can be done straight away,” she added. The Secretary said the government’s approach in the new national telecom policy would be “facilitating and enabling” the sector. “It will be our endeavor to see how we can secure for the industry a viable rate of return,” Ms. Sundararajan added. She added that the Department of Telecom would also come out with a White Paper that will spell out what the government wanted to achieve through the policy. The draft of the new policy is likely to be out by December, while the final policy is expected to be ready by March 2018.