The past few months have seen, what many consider, one of India's biggest scams unwrap. The politician and corporate nexus blown wide open with individuals from both sectors behind bars, the drama continues. While authorities deal with the 2G scam, Minister for Communication and IT, Kapil Sibal has unveiled a draft for India's National Telecom Policy 2011. As I read through the draft, I was amazed at the goals set by the government. Given my faith in the government, the document seems too good to be true.
India's mobile communication services have grown at a great pace and mobile carriers have largely been able to meet the growing demands. Broadband Internet connectivity on the other hand is still facing infrastructure limitations. For the government, broadband penetration in villages continues to be a area of focus. The government hopes to have a fiber network providing Internet connectivity for the village panchayats by 2014.
The 2011 National Telecom Policy hopes to increase broadband penetration and strengthen the nation's mobile connectivity. Emphasis on indigenous telecom equipment is a key area for the government according to the policy. The government hopes that 80% of India's telecom equipment is manufactured in India. (Last month, the government warned against importing equipment from countries like China.) For this, the government plans to create a fund to enable Research & Development, entrepreneurship and manufacturing. As an incentive, manufacturers will have preferential market access. The government expects indigenous phones and encrypted SIM cards will help in secure communication for the government.
Specific to mobile communication, the government has an overall goal of making mobile phones into an instrument of empowerment rather than a communication device. The vision shared by the document hopes to enable financial transactions using mobile phones and better language support. The three crucial goals are for mobile communication:
- One nation - one license (eliminating the concept of licenses per circles for operators and also the possibility of a 2G-like scam)
- One nation - full number portability (expanding the existing MNP policy)
- One nation - free roaming (no roaming charges is good for the consumer, possibility of increase in tariff though)
To improve broadband connectivity, the policy has set the goal of achieving 175 Million broadband connections by 2017 and reaching 600 Million by 2020. The definition of broadband has often been questionable and with the new policy 512kbps will be set as the minimum limit for service providers to promote their connections as broadband. This limit will be increased to 2Mbps by 2015. Keeping in mind the transition to IPv6, the document proposes a phased upgrade to IPv6 by 2020. The telecom ministry in the past had issued guidelines for service providers to be IPv6 compliant by 2011.
To help the operators, the draft mentions setting up on a web based real time e-government portal. The operators will be able to submit applications to the Department of Telecom (DoT) and follow the licensing process via the portal. With 21 important objectives and 40 strategy suggestions on how to achieve the objectives the policy seems comprehensive. The draft is no oblivious to other initiatives of the government. According to the policy, ways to enhance services like Aadhar (UID) and Aakash (cost effective education tablet devices).
THe government's intentions for the telecommunication sector are clear since they plan to make it Telecom a part of the nation's Infrastructure Sector. About time.
In the United States, the telecommunication policies don't favor the end user, add to that bad network and the end user is at their mercy. In sharp contrast, India's telecommunication policies (despite the slow Internet speeds) put the consumer first.