There’s a new telecom policy that is expected around March 2018, but what it appears, it isn’t really about telecom. The focus is going to be on enabling Internet access, and buzz that we hear is that this is as much an Internet policy as it is a telecom policy. Typically, the New Telecom Policy isn’t a directive: it’s more of a set of guidelines and approaches, and specific regulators are made around that. In her comments at FICCI (video), Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundarajan said earlier last month that they intend to provide a clear roadmap. “There’s a continued need for investment in the sector for the 10-15 years,” she said. “[Without] That kind of investment in the network and the infrastructure, I don’t think we’ll be able to achieve the SDG [Sustainable Development Goals]. Yesterday, telecom minister Manoj Sinha also pointed out a few objectives to the Economic Times.

Here’s what we have so far from various comments and sources, on what the NTP is likely to do/focus on:

1. Digital India and Internet access to all, says Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha [Source: ET]

2. Licensing reform: Addressing licensing challenges, “The constraints, and institutional regulations have not been flexible enough to take on board the new disruptions and new technologies. We intend to rewrite a lot of this,” says Telecom secretary Aruna Sundarajan. From a policy-making philosophy perspective, she pointed towards two things: that we must move away from “to allow” to say “how do we enable”; To look at the overall economic benefit and not at the narrower issue of revenue yields. [source: FICCI video] Sundarajan also said that the policy could suggest with doing away with telecom circles. [Source: The Hindu]

3. Ease of doing business will be a fixed focus of the policy, says Aruna Sundarajan. “Given the rate at which technology is changing, one set of rigidities shouldn’t be replaced with another set of rigidities. Nobody can foretell what kinds of challenges that these new technologies will throw up. We need healthy competition for growth, while keeping in mind that there are people who have made investments”…”We need a rationalisation of taxes and levies on the sector, so we need robust ground to ask for that”, Sundarajan added. [source: FICCI video]

4. Sandboxing of new technologies, and allowing new technologies to be experimented with on a large scale, says Aruna Sundarajan. [source: FICCI video]

5. Make In India and R&D: looking at facilitating domestic manufacturing and reducing dependence on imports, as well as encouraging R&D according to telecom minister Manoj Sinha, and Aruna Sundarajan. [Source: ET and FICCI]

6. Standards for the cloud, taking a light touch regulation approach. (Check: TRAI Cloud recommendations) [Source: FICCI video]

7. Security is a key area. [source: FICCI video] DoT is looking to set up a CERT (Computer  Emergency Response Team) just for Telecom. [Source: ET]

8. Internet of Things and M2M services. From what we hear, Smart cities, smart homes and smart businesses will also be a part of the NTP. (Check: TRAI M2M recommendations)

9. Artificial Intelligence. (Check: Ministry of commerce has set up a committee)

10. 5G. [Source: ET]

MediaNama’s take

From what we hear from sources, the policy will go beyond just access services, which is beyond the DoT’s remit. In our opinion, the following issues need to be looked into from a carriage perspective:

  • Minimum broadband speed as 16 mbps. (Okay, even 1mbps will do, as long as speeds don’t go below 1mbps)
  • Target of 1 billion Internet connections by 2020 (currently at 422 million)
  • Fixing the licensing and registration regimes: do away with licensing fees, and charge only for spectrum
  • Security of data in transit (Encryption and security)
  • Enabling M2M and IoT
  • Enabling independent internet exchanges in India
  • Speeding up NOFN / BharatNet rollout
  • Enabling wireline broadband in India (last mile access), and utilisation of dark fiber
  • Regulating blocking of Internet access and networks
  • Fixing India’s MVNO policy
  • Ensuring Net Neutrality, in terms of price, access and speeds of services
  • Ensuring continuance of safe harbour for ISPs
  • Enabling Public Internet Access: WiFi hotspots and fixing the cybercafe regulation
  • Allowing unlicensed spectrum for Internet access
  • Enabling and encouraging Community Internet Access
  • Allowing satellite based Internet connectivity, and 5G
  • Financial incentives for manufacturing in India (not financial disincentives for manufacturing elsewhere)
  • Security of networks and devices
  • Enabling spectrum trading and leasing
  • Shift from revenue focus for spectrum auctions to enabling Internet access.
  • Removal of roaming charges (pending from NTP 2012)
  • Unbundling of the last mile for BSNL and MTNL

Apart from this, it’s important that the telecom ministry not look at AI, Cloud, “OTT”, because that is MEITY’s jurisdiction, and not that of the Ministry of Communications.