NTP 2018 objectives vrs present reality

Quality and high speed broadband for both rural and urban India, $100 bn investment and connecting 10 billion IoT/M2M devices are the new flavours for the New Telecom Policy

In NTP 2012, India fared badly in terms of rural tele-density, making India a global hub of domestic manufacturing and development of state of the art technologies through R&D and creation of Indian IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights) in global standards. The New Telecom Policy should focus on activities where we have fared badly and also take up new initiatives which can help transform India in the filed of converged technologies.  

Let’s look at NTP 2018 objectives as laid down in the consultation paper released by TRAI with respect to the present reality or achievement till 2017.

1. To increase rural tele-density to 100%

As per TRAI’s India’s Telecom Subscriber Numbers for Quarter Ended September 2017, the urban tele-density stands at 173.15 whereas rural tele-density stands at a mere 56.71.

2. To provide data connectivity of at least 1 Gbps speed to all gram panchayats

Presently, the data connectivity at connected gram panchayats is not consistent and even the downtime is very high which puts a big question mark on providing data connectivity of at least 1 Gbps speed to all gram panchayats.

3. To enable access for wireline broadband services to 50% households in the country

Presently, there is no data on total wireline broadband services to households in India. There are only two data in the public domain – Total wireline subscribers is 23.67 million and total wired Internet subscribers is 21.35 million so we do not know from what base household numbers are starting.

TRAI should also specify both rural and urban households percentage rather than just mentioning households. In India as per Census 2011, there are 192 million households of which 138 million are rural households and 54 million are urban households so on computation, TRAI number talks about 69 million rural and 27 million urban households which is not an easy task.

4. To enable access for high-quality wireless broadband services at affordable prices to 90% population

Presently, wireless Internet services is available to 80-85% population but getting consistent and high quality wireless broadband services i.e. 2 Mbps service is still a distant dream for metro subscribers so you can well imagine the state of affairs for rural subscribers.

5. To achieve 900 million broadband connections at a minimum download speed of 2 Mbps out of that at least 150 million broadband connections at a minimum download speed of 20 Mbps

Presently, India has achieved Internet connections of 429.23 million and broadband connections are to the tune of 325 million but only 20 per cent of this subscriber gets minimum download speed of 2 Mbps. The other point is 150 million broadband connections at a minimum download speed of 20 Mbps will be either through fiber or 5G technology so India has to allocate 5G technology at the earliest so that the industry can achieve download speeds of 20 Mbps.

6. To develop 10 million public Wi-Fi hotspots in the country

Presently, India has around 45,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots as on March 31, 2017 and taking the number to 10 million public Wi-Fi hotspots would be a humongous task. TRAI has to come out with an unique model which will help achieve 10 million public Wi-Fi hotspots.

7. To attain average speed of 20 Mbps for wireless and 50 Mbps for wireline Internet connectivity

Presently, TRAI does not tabulate average wireless and wireline speed as per circle or on an all India basis so there is no benchmark on average speed for both wireless and wireline Internet connectivity. Attaining average speed of 20 Mbps for wireless and 50 Mbps for wireline Internet connectivity would not be an easy task for the industry.

8. To leapfrog India amongst top-50 nations in international rankings in terms of network readiness, communications systems and services

In 2016, India was ranked 91 out of 139 economies on the Networked Readiness Index, a key component of the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2016. To leapfrog to Top 50 nations by 2022 would not be an easy task and the focus should be on the following ten parameters.

a) Political and regulatory environment – Effectiveness of law-making bodies, laws relating to ICTs, judicial independence in your country, efficiency of legal framework in settling disputes, efficiency of legal framework in challenging regulations, intellectual property protection, software piracy rate, unlicensed software units as a percentage of total software units installed, number of procedures to enforce a contract and time required to enforce a contract.

b) Business and innovation environment – Availability of latest technologies, venture capital availability, total tax rate, time required to start a business, number of procedures required to start a business, intensity of local competition, tertiary education enrolment rate, quality of management schools and government procurement of advanced technology products.

c) Infrastructure – Electricity production, mobile network coverage rate, international Internet bandwidth and secure Internet servers,

d) Affordability – Prepaid mobile cellular tariffs patterns, fixed broadband Internet tariffs and Internet and telephony sectors competition index.

e) Skills – Quality of education system, quality of math and science education, secondary education enrolment rate, adult literacy rate and individual usage.

f) Mobile telephone subscriptions – Mobile telephone subscriptions (post-paid and pre-paid) per 100 population, Internet users, households with a personal computer, households with Internet access, fixed broadband Internet subscriptions, mobile broadband Internet subscriptions and use of virtual social networks and business usage.

g) Firm-level technology absorption – In your country, to what extent do businesses adopt new technology, capacity for innovation, PCT patents applications, ICT use for business-to-business transactions, business-to-consumer Internet use and extent of staff training.

h) Government usage – Importance of ICTs to government vision, government online service index, government success in ICT promotion, economic impacts, ICT PCT patent applications per million population, impact of ICTs on organisational models and knowledge intensive jobs.

i) Social impacts – Impact of ICTs on access to basic services, Internet access in schools, ICT use and government efficiency and E-Participation Index

9. To enable access for connecting to 10 billion IoT/M2M sensors/devices

Presently, there are no specific numbers for IoT/M2M sensors/devices and to achieve this would be an herculean task. According to Ericsson Mobility report by 2023, over 30 billion connected devices are forecast, of which around 20 billion will be related to the IoT. Connected IoT devices include connected cars, machines, meters, sensors, point-of-sale terminals, consumer electronics and wearables. So, catering to 50 per cent of global numbers would not be an easy task from India perspective.

10. To attract an investment equivalent to $100 billion in communication sector

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), has revealed that the total FDI equity inflow in telecom sector from FY2014-15 till May 2017 stood at $9.79 billion of which $6.08 billion in the first half of the financial year (April to September, 2017).

This will not be an easy task and this investment can only come from the manufacturing sector in a big way and for that the focus is to develop complete manufacturing eco-system in the country at the earliest and the government also need to be an equity partner in some of the manufacturing projects.

11. To become net positive in international trade of communication systems and services

It is not an easy task and would be only possible when we start manufacturing products in large numbers and also increase the localisation factor in all our products. Not only this we will also have to look at manufacturing of these products keeping in view the export market.  

It is good to keep 10 billion in IoT, $100 billion investment in telecom, 10 million public Wi-Fi hotspots and 900 million broadband in the New Telecom Policy 2018 but policy makers should make it a point that those numbers are achieved on or before 2022 when India celebrates 75 years of independence.