To address the challenges faced by the telecom sector and fuel growth, changes are required in the licencing framework and calculation for various levies need to be reviewed, sectoral regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said. Trai in its inputs on the National Telecom Policy 2018 (NTP) said in addition to reviewing the license fee and spectrum usage charges (SUC) structure, there is a need to review the rates of such levies, keeping in view the fact that spectrum is now being assigned through auction process, and telecommunication networks have become the underlying infrastructure for growth in digital economy. The regulator said since the present framework for calculating these levies was devised two decades back, it may be appropriate to review the concept of gross revenue and its underlining elements. “A number of issues related to gross revenue and adjusted gross revenue are being litigated at various forums and it is essential that these be resolved at the earliest.” The telecom sector is going through a financial stress and corrective measures, including extending the tenure of spectrum payments to 16 years and change in interest rates, are to be announced soon, the Trai said. The government plans to come out with the NTP by March this year and the policy would set the objectives to be accomplished by the end of 2022, when India will be celebrating its 75 years of independence. Trai has given its inputs after consulting with various stakeholders. As the policy affects the outcomes of several sectors, Trai has suggested that the policy be called “the Information and Communication Technology Policy 2018”. The regulator said as spectrum management is the most critical resource for rollout of wireless networks, all available airwaves should be utilised fully. “Wherever it is possible to free up spectrum by utilising more efficient technologies or substitutable wireline systems, the same should be done,” Trai said. The Right of Way permissions should be granted by the respective local authorities expeditiously at reasonable charges and in non-discriminatory manner to the service providers, it added. Trai said as sharing of infrastructure and resources plays a vital role in bringing down prices and improving affordability of services, infrastructure sharing should be permitted on voluntarily basis with any service providers who possess the valid license.
The regulator has proposed to develop data centres and to promote research and development in the sector.The objectives of NTP include increasing rural tele-density to 100 per cent and attracting an investment equivalent to $100 billion in the sector. The policy aims to enable access for high-quality wireless broadband services at affordable prices to 90 per cent population as also achieving 900 million broadband connections at a minimum download speed of 2 Mbps.