Telecommunication Reforms in India

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The National Telecom Policy 2012, or NTP 2012, has been introduced recently by the national government. The union cabinet has also given its approval for the Unified License to be introduced and has asked the Department of Telecommunications to work out the final details of the licensing regime. However, the Unified License will only be finalized once the Minister of Communications and IT provides the necessary approval.

Special Features of the National Telecom Policy 2012

The NTP 2012 looks to provide telecom services that are safe, trustworthy and offers commendable quality and are available anywhere anytime. Its main purpose is to help make India’s socio-economic development more inclusive.

The policy focuses on creating a multiplier effect and making sure that the telecom services play a crucial role in the national economic development. The other major areas of focus can be enumerated as below:

  1. Upping the teledensity in the rural areas. At present it is 39 percent. The NTP 2012 looks to take it to 70% in the next 5 years and 100% in the coming 8 years
  2. Simplifying the licensing procedures and rules – making sure licenses and spectrum are not linked and real time processing and submission is possible on the internet
  3. Making the cell phone a critical instrument in overall empowerment
  4. Doing away with roaming and achieving complete mobile number portability across the nation.
  5. Broadband connection, at the download speed of at least 2 Mbps
  6. Reselling services
  7. Making India a global manufacturing center
  8. Voice over internet protocol
  9. Integrating network, devices, and services
  10. Cloud computing and next generation network that will be inclusive of IPV6
  11. Liberalizing spectrum so that services are not bound by technological constraints

Expectations from the National Telecom Policy 2012

The main aim of the NTP 2012 seeks to come up with a consistent and convenient policy that will last for an approximate period of 10 years. The detailed guidelines for the policy will be introduced as and when they are thought to be appropriate. It is expected that once the policy is implemented it will be make the telecommunication infrastructure in India more efficient than before.

The policy is also supposed to help with measures that will facilitate service providers to quickly move over the new regime. The whole industry environment is expected to be more uniform and offer more scope for all the companies.

National Telecom Policy 2012 – pros and cons

The NTP 2012 has generated most of the buzz because of the one time fee for spectrum services proposed by itself. It has also made some other interesting proposals such as sharing, re-farming, trading, and pooling in addition to a fee for license renewal, something that is unheard of in the context of spectrum pricing.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is supposed to provide a detailed report of the same to the Department of Telecom (DoT). Experts, meanwhile, are of the opinion that the policy also has some other noteworthy proposals and a couple of these can be regarded as capable of creating new developments in the national telecom industry.

Experts have praised the NTP 2012 for looking to make the mobile a more prominent transaction device and increase its role empowerment and governance. The policy is also looking to use cloud computing and combine the technologies used for network, devices, and services.

They feel that if cloud computing can be used to provide services and maintain information regarding every transaction, and cell phones can be combined with other electronic devices then it will be possible to bring about a real revolution in the way this country is governed.

So far the Indian bureaucracy has not been ready to accept digitization of government data and attempts to perform governmental operations through the cell phone or the internet. In the last couple of years cloud computing has been barred because of security apprehensions.

Analysts think some of these concerns are justified but the rest cannot be termed as such. The 2012 NTP can be termed as a whiff of fresh air in that regard as it acknowledges the potential of technology in making India a better country.

Till date Indian internet users have been getting used to low download speeds ranging from 256 to 512 kbps when they have promised maximum speeds of 2 mbps. The policy clears some good ground in that regard and actually states that no internet connection being marketed by a telecom organization can be regarded as a broadband connection if its minimum download speed is less than 2 Mbps.

The global download speeds are approximately 8 Mbps and so this cannot be called a big leap by any stretch of imagination but it can definitely be regarded as a step in the right direction. This also shows that the government is now looking to provide good bandwidth instead of merely providing it.

Roaming expenses are a major area of headache for the consumers too as the basis of calculations is not really clear – nobody really knows why it varies from one consumer to another and from one company to another. The increased usage of mobile internet and smartphones has only made it a more complex question.

These charges have been done away by the NTP 2012 but consumers will still need to wait before the DoT works out the various nuances of a mobile portability service that will be working across India.

One of the major problems of the telecom policy is that the ways in which it plans to increase teledensity are not yet clear. The National Broadband Plan enacted in 2004 had aimed to provide broadband connection with a maximum speed of 512 kbps to 20 million families by 2010.

This was a modest target that is yet to be fulfilled – till May 2012 approximately 13 million homes have access to broadband connections in the country. This shows that it is fairly easy to set a target but pretty hard to achieve it.

The NTP 2012 will also aim to make India a global destination for manufacturing with regards to telecom hardware with the intention of making such prices cheaper across the country. However, it does not mention when and how this aim will be achieved. Much will depend on the Electronics Manufacturing Policy, which is still being drafted.

Analysts feel that the NTP’s support of IPV6 and new generation network systems would be an inevitable one as the IP addresses, which are presently in the IPV4 stage are nearing their end and all the countries will have to take this step. Last Updated on 12 June 2012