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India’s New National Telecom Policy Approved; Unified Service Licenses, Intra-Circle MNP, Spectrum Reforms

The Union Cabinet has approved the National Telecom Policy (NTP 2012) with a few changes to the original draft of the New Telecom Policy introduced by India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in October 2011. This policy will now replace the existing telecom policy formulated in 1999. In addition, the cabinet has also approved the introduction of Unified License and has instructed DoT to finalise the new Unified Licensing policy with the approval of Minister of Communications & IT.

Through this policy, the Telecom ministry seeks to provide a predictable and stable policy regime for the next ten years. The ministry stated that the implementation of this policy will allow easy policy implementation to provide an efficient telecommunication infrastructure. It also added that this policy will allow the ministry to take facilitatory measures to allow existing service providers to quickly migrate to the new regime.

Some of the highlights in NTP 2012 include:

–  Removal of roaming charges across the nation and provide free roaming to telecom users.

–  Extend Intra-circle mobile number portability facility on a nationwide basis, thereby allowing users to keep their mobile numbers even if they opt for another telco anywhere in the country. It should be noted that the ministry hasn’t disclosed any specific timeline on its implementation. We had always felt that intra-circle MNP should have been in place from day 1.

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 The minimum broadband speed has been increased to 2 Mbps from the existing broadband download speed of 256 kbps. As we had said in one of our posts after the recommendations, readers should keep in mind that ISPs were forced to increase their speeds when the previous regime under Dayanidhi Maran changed the definition of broadband to mean 256kbps and above. A change in the definition of broadband – odd as it seems – will have an effect.

–  Increasing the rural teledensity from the existing level of 39% to 70% by 2017 and 100% by 2020.

 Delinking spectrum in respect to future licenses, introduction of Unified Licensing and online real time submission and processing. The spectrum shall now be made available at market price. We had said that the government should not sell a “license” if spectrum is not linked to it. The license system doesn’t quite make sense, and anyone who can purchase spectrum, and is compliant with licensing conditions should be given a license at no additional cost. We felt that eventually, the cost will have to be borne by the end-user.

Unified licensing : The Draft NTP-2011 had suggested the creation of technology neutral Unified Licenses (under the One Nation-One License) policy, that is envisaged in two separate categories – the Network Service Operator / Communication Network Service Operator (CNSO), which is licensed to maintain converged networks for delivering “various types of services e.g. Voice, Data, Video, broadcast, IPTV, VAS etc.”, very importantly, in a non-exclusive and non-discriminatory manner.

The second would be a Service Delivery Operator (SDO) / Communication Service Delivery Operator (CSDO). The Service Delivery Operator (SDO) would be licensed to deliver any/ all services e.g. tele-services (voice, data, video), internet/broadband, broadcast services, IPTV, Value Added Service and content delivery services etc.

This would also mean that service providers will be able to offer voice services over data.

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– The policy also intends to facilitate resale of licenses at service level in both wholesale and retail.

– It also aims to establish an appropriate regulatory framework for progressive liberalisation of spectrum utilisation in order to create technology neutral unified services and allow telecom operators to deploy any kind of services on any kind of technology platform.

– Provisions to promote the domestic production of telecommunication equipment to meet 80% Indian telecom sector demand by 2020 and provide preferential market access for domestically manufactured telecommunication products including mobile devices, SIM cards with enhanced features.

– The policy also addresses cloud computing and transition into next generation network including IPv6, which is planned to be completed by 2020.

Our detailed coverage of the NTP and our take on the recommendations: 

Draft New Telecom Policy 2011: Broadband Related Provisions & Issues Not Addressed
India’s Draft New Telecom Policy 2011: The Policy That Could Change India’s Digital Business Forever
India’s Draft National Telecom Policy 2011: What’s In It For Startups, Content & Service Providers
India’s Draft National Telecom Policy 2011: On Licensing, Regulation, Convergence, Spectrum And Manufacturing
– Draft of the New Telecom Policy (Download, pdf)

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