New telecom policy aims at broadband for all Indians by 2022

02 May 2018

The ‘National Digital Communications Policy 2018’ aims at attracting investments of over $100 billion in the sector and also creating 4 million new jobs by 2022.
The new policy proposes extending fixed line broadband access to 50 per cent of households with facility of service portability.
The policy suggests providing universal broadband coverage at 50 mbps to every citizen and providing 1 gbps (gigabit per second) connectivity to all gram panchayats of India by 2020 and 10 gbps by 2022.
The draft says it aims to enhance the contribution of the digital communications space to India’s GDP to 8 per cent from about 6 per cent in 2017.
Besides, the draft policy includes reviewing licence fees, spectrum usage charges, and the universal service obligation fund levy, which add to the cost of telecom services, in order to enhance ease of doing business in the sector.
It proposes adopting “Optimal Pricing of Spectrum” to ensure sustainable and affordable access to digital communications.
The draft policy proposes recognising the mid-band spectrum, particularly the 3 GHz to 24 GHz range, for next-generation networks. It outlines roadmap for high in demand backhaul spectrum for transmitting signals between mobile towers in E and V band as per international best practices.
The policy, 2018 seeks to unlock the transformative power of digital communications networks — to achieve the goal of digital empowerment and well being of the people of India; and towards this end, attempts to outline a set of goals, initiatives, strategies and intended policy outcomes.
By 2022, the contribution of the Digital Communications sector to the Indian economy is expected to go up to 8 per cent of GDP from around 6 per cent in 2017.
To fulfil the information and communication needs of citizens and enterprises by establishment of a ubiquitous, resilient, secure and affordable digital communication infrastructure and services; and in the process, support India’s transition to a digitally empowered economy and society.
The National Digital Communications Policy, 2018 envisages three missions, namely, Connect India, Propel India and Secure India in order to accomplish these objectives by year 2022.
Connect India aims at creating a robust digital communication infrastructure that would ensure 'Broadband for All’ as a tool for socio-economic development, while ensuring service quality and environmental sustainability.
The `Propel India’ mission seeks to be an enabler for next generation technologies and services through investments, innovation and IPR generation and by harnessing the power of emerging digital technologies, including 5G, AI, IoT, Cloud and Big Data to enable provision of future ready products and services, thereby catalysing the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) by promoting investments, innovation and IPR.
The `Secure India’ mission seeks to ensure sovereignty, safety and security of digital communications and to secure the interests of citizens and safeguard the digital sovereignty of India with a focus on ensuring individual autonomy and choice, data ownership, privacy and security, while recognising data as a crucial economic resource.
The policy aims at ensuring availability of 100 Mbps broadband on demand to all key development institutions; including all educational institutions; enable fixed line broadband access to at least 50 per cent of households; achieve ‘unique mobile subscriber density’ of 55 by 2020 and 65 by 2022; enable deployment of public Wi-Fi hotspots reaching 5 million users by 2020 and 10 million by 2022; and ensure connectivity to all uncovered areas.
Towards this it is proposed to establish a ‘National Broadband Mission (Rashtriya Broadband Abhiyan) to implement universal broadband access initiatives, which will be funded through USOF and public private partnerships.
The digital backbone would comprise of:
  • BharatNet that would provide 1 Gbps to Gram Panchayats upgradeable to 10 Gbps;
  • GramNet connecting all key rural development institutions with 10 Mbps upgradeable to 100 Mbps;
  • NagarNet that aims at establishing 1 million public Wi-Fi hotspots in urban areas;
  • JanWifi for establishing 2 million Wi-Fi hotspots in rural areas
The mission also aims at implementing a ‘Fibre First Initiative’ to take fibre to the home, to enterprises and to key development institutions in Tier I, II and III towns and to rural clusters by:
  • According telecom optic fibre cables the status of public utility;
  • Promoting collaboration models involving state, local bodies and private sector as necessary for provision of shared duct infrastructure in municipalities, rural areas and national highways;
  • Facilitating fibre-to-the-tower programme to enable fibre installation of at least 60 per cent base stations thereby accelerating migration to 4G/5G;
  • Leveraging existing assets of the broadcasting and power sector to improve connectivity, affordability and sustainability;
  • Incentivising and promoting fibre connectivity for all new developmental construction;
  • Making requirement for telecom installations and the associated cabling and in-building solutions mandatory in all commercial, residential and office spaces by amending National Building Code of India (NBC), through Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS);
The mission also aims at establishing a national digital grid by:
  • Creating a National Fibre Authority;
  • Establishing common service ducts and utility corridors in all new city and highway road projects, and related elements;
  • Creating a collaborative institutional mechanism between centre, states and local bodies for Common Rights of Way, standardisation of costs and timelines; and removal of barriers to approvals;
  • Facilitate development of Open Access Next Generation Networks;
  • Facilitate the establishment of mobile tower infrastructure by: extending incentives and exemptions for the construction of telecom towers; according accelerated Rights of Way permissions for telecom towers in government premises; promoting deployment of solar and green energy for telecom towers; improving international connectivity and achieving cost reduction of international bandwidth by facilitating setting up of International Cable Landing Stations through rationalisation of access charges and removing regulatory hurdles;
  • Encourage sharing of active infrastructure by enhancing the scope of infrastructure providers (IP) and promoting deployment of common sharable, passive as well as active, infrastructure;
  • Enabling infrastructure convergence of IT, telecom and broadcasting sectors: by amending the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and other relevant acts for the purpose of convergence in coordination with respective ministries; establishing a unified policy framework and spectrum management regime for broadcast and broadband technologies; and restructuring of legal, licensing and regulatory frameworks for reaping the benefits of convergence;
  • Creating a Broadband Readiness Index for states/ union territories to attract investments and address RoW challenges;
  • Encouraging investment in broadband infrastructure through fiscal incentives, including accelerated depreciation and tax incentives; and incentivising fixed line broadband;
  • Encouraging innovative approaches to infrastructure creation and access, including through resale and Virtual Network Operators (VNO); and
  • Promoting broadband connectivity through innovative and alternative technologies.
  • Recognising spectrum as a key natural resource for public benefit to achieve India’s socio-economic goals, the policy will aim at optimising availability and utilisation by making adequate spectrum available to be equipped for the new broadband era.


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