With the government planning to come out with a new telecom policy by March, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has issued a consultation paper, seeking the views of all stakeholders on the structure and contents of the proposed policy. The National Telecom Policy (NTP) 2018 would set the mission and objectives to be accomplished by the end of 2022, when India would be celebrating its 75 years of independence, the sectoral regulator said, adding that it would also specify the strategies to accomplish such objectives. “The NTP 2018 can have twin goals — to facilitate the development of communication infrastructure and services to achieve inclusive socio-economic growth in the country, and to propel India to become the front-runner in the fourth industrial revolution,” Trai said in the consultation paper. Stakeholders have been asked to send their feedback “clearly outlining the specifics” along with justification. They may also suggest any other issue related to the policy framework which they feel is important for the growth of the sector. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had sought last year Trai’s comments regarding the formulation of the policy. The objectives of the NTP 2018 include increasing rural tele-density to 100 per cent and attracting investments equivalent to $100 billion in the communication sector. The policy also aims to enable access to high-quality wireless broadband services at affordable prices for 90 per cent population and achieve 900 million broadband connections at a minimum download speed of 2 Mbps — of this, at least 150 million connections at a minimum download speed of 20 Mbps.
Besides, it intends to help India leapfrog to amongst top-50 nations in international rankings in terms of network readiness, communications systems, and services.Other objectives of the policy include developing 10 million public Wi-Fi hotspots, attaining an average speed of 20 Mbps for wireless and 50 Mbps for wireline internet connectivity, providing data connectivity of at least 1 Gbps speed to all gram panchayats, and enabling access to wireline broadband services for 50 per cent households in the country. According to the DoT, the new telecom policy will be governed by the key guiding principle of alignment with the national vision. Its major themes will be regulatory and licensing frameworks impacting the telecom sector, connectivity-for-all, quality of services, ease of doing business, and absorption of new technologies, including 5G and IoT (internet of things). The government also wants to encourage innovation and manufacturing, and develop a large pool of digitally skilled man-power. According to an Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) study, a 10 per cent increase in the rate of growth of broadband subscribers will result in a 2.4 per cent increase in the GDP rate. International experience also suggests that telecommunication services catalyse the growth of all sectors of economy, particularly, the fundamental sectors like health, education, agriculture, digital services, and industry.