National Telecom Policy 2012 likely to get delayed further

National Telecom Policy 2012 likely to get delayed further

New Delhi: The National Telecom Policy 2012 (NTP 2012) may be further delayed as the department of telecommunications (DoT) is busy dealing with the consequences of the 2 February Supreme Court verdict, while also waiting for the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to complete its work on the specific guidelines to many of the clauses in the policy document.

“We missed the March-April deadline because the Supreme Court order came and the decision on spectrum pricing policy also took some time," said a senior DoT official on condition of anonymity. “Now the guidelines on the unified licences have also come from Trai and have to be integrated into the policy document. Other recommendations are also expected from Trai, which will have to be integrated into the policy (before the cabinet note is prepared)."

Trai chairman J.S. Sarma had said last week the regulator would submit the recommendations by 15 April.

On Wednesday, Trai released its recommendations on the exit policy that also has to be incorporated into NTP 2012. Trai has recommended that in light of the 2 February verdict cancelling 122 licences allocated after 10 January 2008, there is no need to have a separate new exit policy.

Currently, a company can exit the telecom sector by surrendering its licences after giving 60-day notice to DoT.

NTP is a framework document that sets out the direction for the country’s telecom sector. All telecom policy decisions are taken by the government based on this. NTP 2012 will be the third instalment, after similar documents issued in 1994 and 1999.

A new NTP was first proposed as part of communications minister Kapil Sibal’s 100-day plan on 1 January 2011, and was supposed to be out the same year.

Interestingly, most of the proposals in NTP 2012 find their origins in the recommendations of the 2009 Subodh Kumar committee that reviewed spectrum and licensing norms governing the telecom sector, as reported by Mint at the time.

The committee’s recommendations were then forwarded to Trai and eventually became part of the recommendations on “spectrum management and licence conditions". The final recommendations were submitted to DoT in November 2011, but Trai is still working on specific guidelines to some of the clauses in these recommendations.

“After the final draft is prepared, then the document has to go to the various relevant ministries for approval and suggestions, which then have to be incorporated. This is expected to take at least another month, after which the final draft has to get the approval of the minister (Sibal) and the law ministry before going to the cabinet committee on economic affairs," a senior analyst and telecom regulatory expert said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

DoT secretary R. Chandrashekhar, however, said that the government is trying to get NTP completed as soon as possible as it is necessary for potential bidders wanting to participate in the coming spectrum auction. “The potential bidders have to know what will be the policy in the coming years and be able to plan for the future," he said.

“The approvals from the various ministries may not be needed as the Telecom Commission, that has cleared most of the broad proposals, includes the secretaries of the ministry of finance, Planning Commission and department of industrial policy and promotion. The matter can be categorized as of urgent priority and pushed for faster clearance," another senior DoT official said.

shauvik.g@livemint.com

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