Infrastructure

NDCP 2018: Preparing India For A Digital Future?

Digital Future

The department of telecom put forth the new telecom policy, known as the National Digital Communications Policy 2018 or NDCP 2018. Earlier known as National Telecom Policy, the new name suits better as the policy framework is no more limited to telecom only, as it encompasses many areas that build a country’s information and communication infrastructure. Besides telecommunication, the new telecom policy has tried to cover areas such as Internet of Things, M2M, Cloud Computing, 5G and electronics manufacturing. It also includes guidelines for IPR, artificial intelligence, foreign investments, job creation and cyber and digital security.

The new policy aims to prepare the country and its citizens for the future from a communications technology point of view. Here are some of the broad objectives of the policy:

It promises to rationalise levies, including spectrum charges, to rejuvenate the debt-ridden telecom sector
It also proposes to give broadband access to all with 50 mbps speed, 5G services and create 40 lakh new jobs in the sector by 2022
It aims to attract $100 billion in the digital communications sector by 2022 with the help of regulatory reforms
Enhance the contribution of digital communications to 8% of the country’s GDP from about 6% in 2017
Targets public Wi-Fi hotspots to reach 5 million by 2020 and 10 million by 2022

The government wants to attain the objectives with the help of a three prong strategy.

– Connect India: The aim of the Connect India strategy is to create a robust digital communication infrastructure for the country where the entire country can be connected. This will be achieved by using ‘Broadband for All’ as a tool, means, availability of high speed broadband connectivity for each and every citizen of the country. 

– Propel India: The government believes it will not be enough if just a robust communications network is provided. The country should make bigger strides towards the newer technologies including 5G, IoT, AI, Cloud and other next generation technologies. And to achieve that the country needs more investment in those areas and intellectual property rights should obtained in every aspect of the ne technologies and solutions.

– Secure India : The third aspect of the policy is securing the nation from cyber attacks that aims to establish a comprehensive data protection regime for digital communications that safeguards the privacy, autonomy and choice of individuals and the nation.  

The National Digital Communications Policy 2018 is at a ‘draft’ stage and has been made public so that the stakeholders of the industry including service providers, equipment manufacturers, academia and experts can share their comments, feedback and observation on the same.

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) said that NDCP 2018 is a very ambitious policy that can make significant contribution to the digital economy. According to IAMAI, the optimistic goals set for 2022 such as provision of broadband for all; creating 4 million additional jobs in the digital communications sector; enhancing the contribution of the digital communications sector to 8% of India’s GDP and propelling India to the top 50 nations in the ICT Development Index of ITU, are socially relevant, clearly articulated and embraces the contribution of India to the digital communications economy of the world.

“With access being the main problem in India today, it is laudable that the policy sets out to create a robust digital communications infrastructure by 2022. The goals to provide Universal broadband coverage at 50 Mbps to every citizen; provide 1 Gbps connectivity to all Gram Panchayats by 2020 and 10 Mbps by 2022; enable 100 Mbps broadband on demand to all key development institutions etc are crucial policy initiatives, which will address the problem of access,” a senior official at IAMAI said in a statement.

According to Rajan S Mathews, DG, COAI, “The new policy will pave the way for development of telecom and digital services in the country. It will also help create 40 lakh new jobs, which in turn will improve skill set among the people employed in the telecom sector. The policy has addressed the long pending concerns of the telecom industry by proposing to review and rationalise various taxes and levies including license fees, spectrum usage charges and the universal service obligation fund, GST etc.”

“The proposed investment of USD 100 billion in the communication industry will help increase the contribution of telecom sector in the GDP from 6 to 8 percent. To propel development of the country with use of next generation technology through investment, the policy proposes attract investments of USD 100 billion in the digital communications sector by 2022 with help of regulatory reforms. In this regard, industry had suggested for allowing tax-free bonds for telecom sector,” he added.

The new policy recognises spectrum as a natural resource and therefore sets tasks of ensuring adequate availability, efficient usage and putting together a fair and transparent allocation method for service providers. Having taken cognizance of the steep cost of spectrum, the policy has also suggested for adopting optimal pricing to ensure sustainable and affordable access to digital communication.

The draft policy proposes extending incentives and exemptions for the construction of telecom towers and provide for accelerated Rights of Way permissions for telecom towers in government premises. This also includes the promotion of solar and green energy for telecom towers. It has also prescribed for ensuring a holistic and harmonized approach for harnessing emerging technologies by creating roadmap for 5G, AI, robotics, IoT, cloud computing and M2M.

“We believe these steps will usher in the new era of telecom revolution in the country by making telecom and digital services accessible to everyone and will also bring in the much needed relief to the industry,” summed up Mathews.

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