National ICT Policy-2018 to focus on availability, affordability, investment and licensing

The change from telecom to ICT increases the scope and scale, and TRAI recommendations focuses on availability, affordability, attracting investment and jobs and simplifying licensing and regulatory framework

TRAI has renamed National Telecom Policy 2018 to National Information and Communication Technology Policy-2018 or National ICT Policy-2018 as all stakeholders were of the view that convergence and digital are new buzzwords and not telecom so the policy needs to be renamed accordingly.

TRAI is of the view that licensing framework should have space for experimentation and innovation. Even the review of license fees GR (Gross Revenue) and AGR (Aggregated Gross Revenue) would assist in enhancing clarity and removing ambiguities. There is also a need to review the rates of such levies keeping in view the fact that the access spectrum is now being assigned through auction process.

There is also need for coordinated efforts among the central, state and local authorities so that a common online portal for granting Right of Way (RoW) permissions in a time bound manner is put in place swiftly. Focus is also on online exchange for voluntarily trading and sharing of available infrastructure and resources including spectrum to maximise their use and improve efficiency.

Objectives of National ICT Policy-2018:

  1. To enable access at affordable prices for wireless broadband services, including satellite to 90% population by 2022
  2. To ensure availability of bandwidth on demand through wireline, including cable TV and optical fibre networks to 30% households by 2020 and 50% households by 2022
  3. To provide at least 1 Gbps data connectivity to all Gram Panchayats to enable wireless broadband services to inhabitants by 2022
  4. To achieve 900 million broadband subscriptions supporting download speed of 2 Mbps, out of that at-least 150 million broadband subscriptions supporting download speed of 20 Mbps and 25 million at a download speed of 50 Mbps by 2022
  5. To achieve ‘unique mobile subscriber density’ of 55 by 2020 and 65 by 2022 by enhancing mobile network coverage to 95% of inhabitants by 2020 and 100% by 2022
  6. To deploy 2 million public WLAN including Wi-Fi hotspots in the country by 2020 and 5 million by 2022
  7. To leapfrog India into the top-50 nations in the ICT Development Index (IDI), released by ITU every year, by 2022
  8. To enable access for connecting to 1 billion IoT/M2M sensors/devices by 2020 and 5 billion by 2022
  9. To attract an investment equivalent to USD 60 billion in communication sector by 2020 and USD 100 billion by 2022
  10. To become net positive in international trade of communication systems and services by 2022
  11. To create 2 million additional jobs in ICT sector by 2022
  12. To put in place an ombudsman based consumer grievance redressal mechanism by end of 2018
  13. To establish online centralised platform for provision of Right of Way (RoW) permissions for single window clearance by 2019
  14. To achieve backhaul connectivity on optical fibre for at least 60% base stations by 2022
  15. To put in place an online platform for all Government to Business (G2B) activities including spectrum and license related information, applications, clearances, compliances and payments by 2019
  16. To simplify licensing and regulatory frameworks, and rationalize taxes, levies and related compliances by 2019
  17. To put in place a flexible, robust data protection regime powered by a strong encryption policy by 2019
  18. To establish a policy framework for facilitating setting up of data centres by 2019

It is essential that an integrated policy framework for development of data centres involving legal, cyber and data security, connectivity, building space, power, and human capital relating issues is framed early. These data centres can also be used to export ICT services and applications and will also improve quality of experience for consumers.

Promotion of R&D, innovation, experiments, patent creation, testing, and standardization in the country is a mission critical for self reliance, security of the nation and addressing the local challenges. We can create special technology zones, where a complete ecosystem for promoting such activities can be developed.

It needs to be seen whether DoT takes part or complete recommendations announced by TRAI with respect to National ICT Policy-2018.