Inputs for NTP 2011

Posted by Prasad Krishna at Jan 02, 2012 05:07 AM |
Filed under: ,
The Centre for Internet and Society wishes to commend the DoT on the draft of the New Telecom Policy and offers its suggestions to improve the draft with specific changes.

The new draft contains several noteworthy initiatives and goals such as Delicensing additional frequency bands for public use, Network sharing, spectrum sharing, pooling and trading , recognizing that revenue generation is not the primary reason for licensing spectrum and that auctions often result in inordinate delays, identifying the mobile phone as a primary instrument for development and inclusion, Convergence of broadcast, telecom and cable infrastructure, promotion of cloud based technologies, Nationwide license, free roaming and one number, promotion of fixed mobile convergence to free up spectrum, promoting consumer interests by increasing choice and quality and addressing concerns of privacy, data security, etc and placing emphasis on research and development, awareness raising and capacity building.

We offer below suggestions to improve the draft with specific changes marked in bold print.

Spectrum Management

We endorse the approach to permit spectrum ‘pooling, sharing and later, trading for optimal and efficient utilization of spectrum’ as described in 4.1. In this regard, we would like to suggest that the Government may consider mandatory spectrum sharing as is being done in USA with respect to white spaces and digital dividends as a better approach over licensing spectrum to a single operator and allowing voluntary sharing since it could result in more dynamic and efficient use of spectrum with access being authorized as per requirement from a central data base driven system.

De-licensing additional spectrum

We agree with the approach to prioritise identification of additional frequency bands for license exempt use for the operation of low power devices, as stated in section 4.6 of the National Telecom Policy 2011. We also support the promotion of the use of technology such as Software Defined Radios (SDRs) and Cognitive Radios (CRs) in white spaces, as mention in section 4.9 of the NTP. These developments in the Indian Telecom policy show promise for the deployment and spread of affordable technologies operating in de-licensed frequencies, which will contribute to the bridging of the digital divide present in India. We offer certain recommendations in this regard:

  1. WPC should have more unlicensed bands available for internet and multimedia to fuelinnovation and efficient spectrum utilization. Unlicensed bands need to be allocated inbigger chunks in various slots.
  2. Frequencies in the 5.15GHz-5.35GHz bands, as well as 5.725-5.825GHz bands are delicensedfor indoor use only. These bands should be de-licensed for outdoor use as well in order to facilitate the creation of wider wireless communication networks and the use ofinnovative technologies.
  3. Bands for the use of DECT technologies have already been de-licensed in Europe and theUnited states. The1800-1890MHz band, which is earmarked for the operations of DECT based devices in India, should be de-licensed for the use of low power cordless communication technologies in line with international practices.
  4. The 433-434 Mhz band should be unlicensed for data telemetry as it is done in many other countries.
  5. Unutilized slots in between TV channels (white spaces) should be made available for unlicensed/Class license usage.

Licensing, Convergence and Value Added Services

With respect to allowing the sharing of network mentioned in 3.6, we would like to propose a similar model as suggested for spectrum sharing, which is more along the lines of Singapore or Australia’s NGN, with the network(s) being run by public private partnership (PPP) consortiums, but led by a private operator.

Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities should be mentioned specifically within the policy and steps should be taken to enable access to telecommunications facilities for them. These would include steps like formulating a Code of good practice for manufacturers and service providers, identifying accessibility standards in different areas, investing in R&D in accessible technologies, setting up a nationwide emergency and relay service, mandating broadcast accessibility to ensure that set-top boxes are accessible and that at least 50 per cent of all TV programmes are captioned, carrying out regular surveys to gather statistics on use of telecommunications services by persons with disabilities, etc.

Specific recommendations

Mission

(To be modified to read as)

1. To develop a robust, secure state-of-the-art telecommunication network providing seamless coverage with special focus on rural and remote areas and bridging digital divide amongst disadvantaged persons, including persons with disabilities.

 Objectives

(To be modified to read as)

28. Protect consumer interest by promoting informed consent, transparency, accountability and accessibility in quality of service, tariff, usage etc. 36. Put in place an accessible web based, real time e-governance solution to support online submission of applications for all services of DoT and issuance of licences and clearances from DoT.

Universal Service Obligation Fund

To include ‘Persons with Disabilities, elderly and illiterate persons’ specifically as a category of beneficiaries within the charter of the fund. Telecom infrastructure/ row issues, green telecom, clear skyline,
(Point to be modified to read as)
5.13. To prescribe sectoral Standard Operating Procedures for effective and early mitigation during disasters and emergencies. To mandate Telecom Service Providers to provide alternative accessible reliable means of communication at the time of disaster by creating appropriate regulatory framework. 5.15. To facilitate an institutional framework to establish nationwide Unified Emergency Response Mechanism by providing nationwide single access number for emergency services and to ensure that the same are also accessible to persons with disabilities.

Broadband and universal service

Given that the uptake of broadband has been rather slow in comparison with mobile phones, a useful step to scaling up broadband penetration and providing ubiquitous broadband services could be to identify broadband as an ‘essential service’ under the Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1981. This could be recognized as an objective in the policy and will help to ensure provision of affordable and reliable provision of broadband.

Specific recommendation

(Point to be modified to read as)

 3. Recognize broadband as an ‘essential service’ under the Essential Services Maintenance Act and provide affordable and reliable broadband on demand by the year 2015 and to achieve 175 million broadband connections by the year 2017 and 600 million by the year 2020 at minimum 2 Mbps download speed as well as making available higher speeds of at least 100 Mbps on demand.

Multi stakeholder approach

All activities such as setting up a council under 2.3, advisory groups in 2.4, 2.10, etc should necessarily include participation from civil society to ensure a balanced representation of the public interest perspective.

Specific recommendations

(Points to be modified to read as)

2.3. To set up a council consisting of experts from Telecom Service Providers, Telecom Manufacturing Industry, Government, civil society,

Academia and R&D institutions.

2.4. To promote synergy of academia, R&D centres, manufacturers, service providers, civil society, consumer groups and other stakeholders for achieving collaboration and reorientation of their efforts for creation of IPRs, development and deployment of new products and services suited to Indian environment.

Implementation and monitoring

While the policy identifies several laudable objectives and initiatives, there is little indication as to time lines and mechanisms for enforcement with measurable indicators. It would be useful to clearly specify these to ensure smooth and effective implementation of the policy.

Protection of consumer interests

Any initiatives taken in this regard, such as formulation of a Code etc, must necessarily involve consumers. The policy also needs to recognize that special effort is required to ensure that information is made available to consumers and more steps are taken towards consumer outreach. This also includes making web sites more user friendly and accessible to consumers. At present even the web sites of the DoT, USOF, and TRAI etc are extremely inaccessible.

Regulation

While it is important to create a conducive regulatory framework for India’s development agenda, we would nevertheless like to caution against over regulation, especially in cases where market forces themselves take care of the situation. It is best to have a light handed approach based on need. It is also suggested that a review of the TRAI act as proposed under 12.1 could result in vesting the sector regulator with greater autonomy and independence.

Specific recommendation

(Point to be modified to read as)
12.1. To review the TRAI Act with a view to addressing regulatory inadequacies/impediments in effective discharge of its functions and strengthening it by increasing its autonomy.

Document Actions

Filed under: ,