New Delhi: The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) late on Tuesday floated the draft of the The National Communications Policy for public consultation which has outlined goals such as providing broadband for all, creating 4 million additional jobs in the digital communications sector, apart from enhancing the contribution of the digital communications sector to 8% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) from less than 6% in 2017.
The draft policy has outlined three major missions which it aims to achieve by 2022—Connect India under which it aims to create robust digital communications , Propel India under which the government aims to harness the power of emerging digital technologies, including 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet Of Things (IoT), etc and Secure India which aims to safeguard the digital sovereignty of India with a focus on ensuring individual autonomy and choice, data ownership, privacy and security.
In the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytics data scandal, the government aims to now establish a comprehensive data protection regime for digital communications that safeguards the privacy, autonomy and choice of individuals and facilitates India’s participation in the global digital economy.
This, the draft policy states, will be done by amending various licenses and terms and conditions, wherever necessary, to incorporate provisions with respect to privacy and data protection and by formulating a policy on encryption and data retention, by harmonising the legal and regulatory regime in India pertaining to cryptography with global standards, as applicable to communication networks and services.
The policy has also announced goals such as deployment of 5 million public Wi-Fi Hotspots by 2020 and 10 million by 2022 through a National Broadband Mission apart from implementing a ‘Fibre First Initiative’ to take fibre to the home by according telecom optic fibre cables the status of public utility.
The government also aims to enable 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.
The policy also aims to identify and make available new spectrum bands for access and backhaul segments for timely deployment and growth of 5G networks apart from further liberalizing the spectrum sharing, leasing and trading regime.
In order to attract investments of $100 billion in the digital communications sector and increase India’s contribution to global value chains, the government will review levies and fees including license fee, universal service obligation fund (USOF) levy and concept of pass through revenues in line with principles of input line credit apart from rationalising spectrum usage charges (SUCs) to reflect the costs of regulation and administration of spectrum.
Currently, telecom service providers pay 3-6% and 8% of their adjusted gross revenue as spectrum usage charges and licence fee to the DoT, respectively.
The DoT will also establish light touch licensing regime for the proliferation of public data offices (PDOs) and Public Data Office Aggregators for providing internet access through Wi-Fi hotspots.
The Telecom Commission on Tuesday separately accepted Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) recommendations on a new framework to set up PDOs, similar to public call offices (PCOs), for providing public Wi-Fi hotspots. These “pay-as-you-go" PDOs will buy data from telecom or internet service providers and resell sachet-sized data packs starting at Rs2.
The policy also aims to create a fund for research and development in new technologies for start-ups and entrepreneurs apart from rationalising taxes, levies and differential duties to incentivise local manufacturing of equipment, networks and devices to the extent of domestic value addition and attracting global original equipment manufacturers to setup manufacturing base in India.