The availability of high-speed mobile broadband is at the heart of a digitally-powered future. Networked devices are the building blocks for any use-case, from IoT-enabled Smart Cities to telemedicine. The draft National Digital Communications Policy’s telecom-friendly measures are a vital show of regulatory support for the sector and Digital India itself.
Broadly, the policy aims to connect the country and improve service quality by adopting next-gen technology such as 5G. An investment of $100 billion as well as creating 4 million jobs by 2022 would help accomplish this. The licensing and regulatory regime is set to be overhauled with a view to promoting ease of business.
Strong Addressing Industry Concerns
Spectrum charges and other fees such as License Fee, Universal Service Obligation Fund levy have put telecom under crippling debt so far. Rationalising them as the policy proposes, coupled with introducing ‘pass through’ revenues in line with principles of input line credit would make it possible for the sector to attract greater foreign direct investment.
For next-gen networks such as 5G, the policy proposes using the mid-band (3GHz t0 24 GHz) spectrum. It has also outlined optimal pricing rules for spectrum. This will ensure telecom operators and end users in turn pay lower prices for digital communications. It will aim to introduce internationally adopted practices, such as signal transmission between E-band and V-band spectrum.
These bands are usually part of backhaul services and are bundled with the ‘main’, auctioned spectrum. India’s adoption of the bundling practice coupled with proposed incentives and exemptions for the construction of telecom towers such as accelerated Rights of Way permissions would accelerate the deployment of necessary infrastructure.
Achieving the targets set out in the National Digital Communications Policy would need approximately $20 trillion in investments over the next 3 years. While major telcos such as Bharti Airtel and Reliance have already committed $10 billion this year alone, the industry needs to look at technologies such as cloud and virtualisation to save on hardware costs and expand their reach. Such technologies will also make telcos more adaptable to consumer needs.
The draft National Digital Communications policy is a vital shot in the arm for the telecom industry. It would increase telecom’s GDP share from 6% to 8%, giving India a head start in the digital knowledge revolution. If implemented as proposed, it can become the framework for Digital India’s realisation.