Draft Telecom policy : National Digital Communications Policy, 2018

The policy seeks to unlock transformative power of digital communications networks to achieve the goal of digital empowerment and well-being of the people of India.
Key Features of the draft policy
  • Strategic objectives: Calls for Universal broadband coverage, creating four million additional jobs in digital communications sector, enhancing contribution of digital communications sector to 8% of India’s GDP from around 6% in 2017, enhancing India’s contribution to global value chains and ensuring digital sovereignty. These objectives will be achieved by 2022. It also aims to propel India’s rank in ICT development index (published by ITU) to top 50, from 134 in 2017.
  • Improvement in regulatory framework: The policy recognises its importance for attracting investments and ensuring fair competition, to serve the needs of the people. It aims to pursue regulatory reforms to ensure that regulatory structures and processes remain relevant, transparent, accountable and forward-looking. It aims to remove regulatory barriers and reduce the regulatory burden that hampers investments, innovation and consumer interest, the draft said. It also proposes to address woes of Telecom sector by reviewing licence fees, spectrum usage charges, universal service obligation fund (USOF) levy for enhancing ease of doing business in sector.
  • Rationalising spectrum regulatory regime: It recognises spectrum as key natural resource for public benefit to achieve socio-economic goals. It aims optimise availability and utilisation by making adequate spectrum available to be equipped for the new broadband era. It will be done by regulation and administration of spectrum and rationalising taxes and levies on digital communications equipment, infrastructure and services. It calls for simplifying process of obtaining permissions from various agencies such as Standing Advisory Committee on Radio Frequency Allocation (SACFA) and  Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) in order to promote efficiency. It also calls for transparent and fair mode of spectrum allocation and assignments by developing fair, flexible, simple and transparent method. It proposes identifying and making available new spectrum bands for access and backhaul segments for timely deployment and growth of 5G networks and making available harmonised and contiguous spectrum required for deployment of next generation access technologies.
  • National Broadband Mission (Rashtriya Broadband Abhiyan): It will be established to secure universal broadband access for implementation of broadband initiatives. It will be funded through Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF) and Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). Its components include- BharatNet (providing 10 to 10 Gbps to Gram Panchayats), GramNet(connecting all key rural development institutions with 10Mbps to 100 Mbps), NagarNet (establish one- million public Wi-Fi Hotspots in urban areas), JanWiFi (establishing two-million Wi-Fi Hotspots in rural areas) and Fibre First Initiative (to provide fibre connectivity to home, enterprises and key development institutions in tier I, II and III towns and rural clusters).
  • Satellite Communication Technologies: Government would develop an ecosystem for satellite communications in India. It will be strengthen by revising licensing and regulatory conditions that limit the use of it, such as speed barriers, band allocation.
  • USOF: Its scope and modalities will be reviewed by redesigning USOF and broadening its objectives to enable universal broadband access and strengthening institutional capacity to ensure effective rollout of services in uncovered, remote and rural areas.
  • Quality of services: Effective institutional mechanisms will be established to protect consumers’ interests including Telecom Ombudsman and centralised web based complaint redressal system.
  • Comprehensive data protection regime: It has been mandated for digital communications that safeguards the privacy, autonomy and choice of individuals and facilitates India’s effective participation in the global digital economy.
  • Use of renewable energy technologies in communications sector: It will be incentivised, including utilisation of small cell fuel batteries, lithium-ion batteries or other similar technologies. It calls for promoting R&D of green telecom through active participation of stakeholders across government, industry and academia and rationalising of taxes and levies on manufacture, production and import of such equipment for digital communication technologies.

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