National Telecom Policy, 2012

by Snehashish Ghosh last modified Mar 15, 2013 06:00 AM
The National Telecom Policy, 2012 was approved by the Union Cabinet on May 31, 2012.

The vision of the policy is, “to provide secure, reliable, affordable and high quality converged telecommunication services anytime, anywhere for an accelerated inclusive socio-economic development”. The policy also aims at recognizing telecom as infrastructure in order to realize the potential of ICT for development.

The main components of the policy are:

  1. Broadband Rural Telephony and Universal Service Obligation Fund
  2. R&D, Manufacturing and Standardization of Telecommunication Equipment
  3. Licensing, Convergence and Value Added Services
  4. Spectrum Management
  5. Quality of Service and Protection of Consumer Interest
  6. Security

Vision of the National Telecom Policy, 2012

The vision of the Policy is, “to provide secure, reliable, affordable and high quality converged telecommunication services anytime, anywhere for an accelerated inclusive socio-economic development”. The vision is to transform the country into an empowered and inclusive knowledge based society through telecommunication as the platform. Information and access to information is a major part of any development scheme, better communication systems can help in increasing awareness and knowledge about various issues in the society.

Background

The growth of telecommunication in rural areas has been slow, with only 34 per cent of the total connections. There is an urgent need to bridge this digital divide and communication gap by providing better and advanced telecommunication services in the rural and remote areas. The current National Telecom Policy, 2012 also aims at an investor friendly policy. It also seeks to generate employment in various telecom sectors through this policy. One of the salient features of the policy is to make available broadband on demand and use of telecom infrastructure which in turn would enable businesses in urban as well as rural areas to engage in the web-economy and e-commerce for inclusive development.

Mobile Devices as an Instrument of Social Empowerment (e-Governance, m-Governance)

The Policy endeavours at making mobile devices as tools for social empowerment. This will be achieved through enabling participation of citizens in e-governance and m-governance projects in key sectors such as health, education, skill development, employment, governance and banking on mobile devices. Cloud-computing will be also used to enable social networking and participative e-governance. One Nation-Full Mobile Number Portability to be implemented and work towards One Nation Free Roaming.

Mobile devices are not only to be used for communication but also to be used as devices to authenticate proof of identity and facilitate secure financial transactions, multilingual services and other capabilities which will assist in increasing the literacy rate in the country.

Strategies

Broadband Rural Telephony and Universal Service Obligation Fund
The Policy dictates for a robust and secure telecommunication service in the rural and remote areas. In order to bridge the digital divide the Policy also mandates affordable and high quality broadband connectivity and telecom service throughout the nation. This will be achieved through combination of technologies viz., optical fibre, wireless, VSAT and others. Optical fibre networks to be laid down to the village panchayats, using USOF funding. It also aims at high speed broadband access to all the village panchayats by 2014 and access to all villages and habitation by 2020. It also aims at increasing the rural tele-density from 29 to 70 by 2012 and 100 by 2020. With high quality voice, data and multimedia and broadcasting services on converged networks,[1] it is expected to render better service to the user.

The policies formulated with respect to access to broadband are:

  • Develop an “eco-system for broadband” and also work towards a “right to broadband”. It also endeavours to recognize telecom and broadband service a basic necessity in the field of education and health.
  • Provide affordable and reliable broadband on demand by 2015, 175 million broadband connections by 2017; 600 million by 2020 at a minimum speed of 2 Mbps download speed and also to make available higher speeds of at least 100 Mbps on demand.
  • Revise the existing broadband download speed from 256 Kbps to 512 Kbps and 2 Mbps by 2015 and speed up to at least 100 Mbps thereafter. The policy also encourages use of FTTH (fibre to the home) to create a “always connected” society.
  • Set up an agency, to co-ordinate with different government departments in order to efficiently lay optical fibre cables across the nation and help in rapid expansion of broadband services in the country.
  • Use broadband along with other government agencies for the implementation of e-governance, e-panchayats MNREGA, NKN, AADHAR, AAKASH tablet. It will also help in facilitating secure financial transactions online.
  • Stimulate interest with respect to utility of broadband by promoting regional and local content with the help of the Department of Information Technology. This will help in generating investment for All-Internet Protocol (IP) Networks including Next Generation Networks (NGN)

R&D, Manufacturing and Standardization of Telecommunication Equipment

The Policy directives for encouraging R&D are:

  • Encourage indigenous manufacturing and R&D, entrepreneurship and IPR creation in the field of telecom products and service under the 12th 5 year plan.
  • Preference to be given to domestically produced telecom products in case of those telecom products which have security implication for the country or which will be put to government use. Moreover, the policy in order to promote indigenous R&D in telecommunication technology will provide for fiscal and financial incentive will be granted for indigenous R&D.
  • Focus on production and R&D of telecom equipment as well as address the issues of security and strategic concerns. It also aims to focus on a green policy and use of renewable sources of energy in the telecom sector.
  • Set up a council with experts from sectors of the telecom industry including telecom service providers, telecom manufacturing industry, government, academia and R&D institutions. The functions of the Council would be to (a) forecast on technology change and product development; (b) update the national programme for technology/product development; (c) to act as a nodal group to ensure implementation of the recommendations made for R&D and IPR creation.
  • Promote collaboration between telecom service providers, manufacturers, R&D centres, academia and other stakeholders for development and introduction of new products in the market which are more suitable for Indian environment and security needs.
  • Assist entrepreneurs by creating funds and promoting indigenous manufacturing, R&D and intellectual property creation.

The Policy also addresses issues with regards to standards in the telecom sector. The main policy directives for standardization of telecom in India are:

  • Set up new standards to meet national requirements and participate in the standard making process carried out by international standardization organizations and also contribute in formulation of global standards.
  • Implement platform neutral services in e-governance and m-governance in the sector of health, education and agriculture. The Policy objective is also to encourage development of mobile phone based on open platform standards.
  • Mandate to use common platform for interconnection of various networks for non-discriminatory and non-exclusive access.
  • Create a road-map for aligning technology, demand, standards and regulations for the purpose of promoting competition in the market.
  • Set up a Telecommunication Standard Development Organisation (TSDO) as an autonomous body to build consensus about standards to meet national requirements including security requirements. The Organisation will also oversee participation of government, industry, R&D centres, service providers and academia in such setting of standards.

In order to promote domestic manufacture of telecom equipments, the Policy seeks to support electronic design and manufacturing clusters for design, development and manufacture of telecommunication equipment. The Policy aims to provide incentive for export of telecom equipment and also give fiscal incentives for domestic manufacturing of telecom equipments under the Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS). It will also lay down mechanism for testing and certification with respect to conformance, performance, interoperability, health, safety, security, EMF/EMI/EMC (electromagnetic compatibility).

Licensing, Convergence and Value Added Services

The policy regarding licensing:

  • Simplify the licensing framework in order to facilitate converged high quality services.
  • Strengthen institutional and legal and regulatory framework and to bring more transparency and efficiency in decision making process and also implement web-based e-governance solution for online application, processing and issuance of licence by Department of Telecommunication.
  • Convergence of technology, for the purpose of enabling a single network for voice data and video, internet telephony (VoIP), value added services and broadcasting services.
  • Move towards convergence between telecom, broadcast, IT service, networks, platforms, technologies. It is also imperative to overcome hurdles such as “existing segregation of licensing, registration and regulatory mechanisms in these areas to enhance affordability, increase access, delivery of multiple services and reduce cost.”
  • Use of fixed mobile convergence in order to optimize the delivery of services to the consumers irrespective of the device or the location.
  • Support from USOF for telecom services, including converged communication services for providing services in commercially unviable rural and remote areas.

Spectrum Management

The Policy aims at creating a framework for increasing the availability of spectrum for the purpose of telecom services. It also seeks to implement a transparent process for allocation of spectrum as well as ensure availability of spectrum. The Policy wishes to make available additional 300 MHz for IMT (4G) services by 2013 and another 200 MHz by 2020.

The government will also promote efficient use of spectrum and will conduct periodical spectrum usage audit. It will also de-licence un-used and additional frequency bands for public use. It will also conduct periodic audit of spectrum use, to ensure optimum use of spectrum.

The policy directives for spectrum management are:

  • Liberalise spectrum for the purpose of enabling use of spectrum for providing any service through any technological medium. Such liberalisation policy will also allow spectrum pooling, sharing, and later trading to effect optimum use of spectrum. This will be done through appropriate regulatory framework.
  • Re-farm spectrum to allot alternate frequency bands to service providers and also to make available spectrum for the introduction of new technologies in the telecom market.
  • Devise a roadmap for the purpose of making available additional spectrum in the next five years. It also seeks to make available globally harmonised IMT spectrum in 450 MHz, 700 MHz, 1800 MHz, 1910 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz, 3.5 GHz bands and other bands to be identified by ITU for commercial mobile services.
  • Provide small chunks of frequency bands for the purpose of research and development indigenous technologies and products.
  • Optimize spectrum allocation by reviewing the existing geographical unit of allocation of spectrum.
  • Promote use of white spaces with low power devices, without causing harmful interference to the licensed applications in specific frequency bands by deployment of Software Defined Radios (SDRs), Cognitive Radios (CRs), etc.
  • Establish Institute of Advanced Radio Spectrum Engineering and Management Studies (IARSEMS) which will carry out policy research in radio spectrum engineering, management/radio monitoring and related aspects.

Quality of Service and Protection of Consumer Interest

The main policy mandate is to further empower TRAI (independent regulator) for the purpose of ensuring that the prescribed performance standards and quality of service parameters are complied with, by the service provides and also provide support to the sector regulator in creating awareness about services, tariff and quality of service. It also seeks to balance the interests of the consumer and the service provider.

The Policy objectives with respect to protection of consumer interests:

  1. Informed consent;
  2. Transparency;
  3. Accountability in quality of service, tariff, usage and;
  4. Strengthen grievance redressal mechanisms

The strategies adopted for ensuring quality of service and protections of consumer interest are:

  • Formulate code of practices of sales and marketing communication.
  • Mandate web-based disclosure of area coverage by the telecom service providers.
  • Establish National Mobile Property Registry to deal with issues of security, theft and other concerns such a reprogramming of mobile handsets.
  • Undertake legislative measure to include dispute between telecom consumers and service providers within the jurisdiction of consumer forums.

Security

The objective of the policy is to formulate a strategy to address the concerns related to communication security and network security. AADHAR based authentication framework would be crucial in providing service such as m-payment.

The strategy adopted to implement security measures are:

  • Telecom service providers must take adequate measures; to ensure security of the communication send and received through their networks. The service provider will adopt contemporary network security standards
  • Telecom service providers must provide communication assistance to law enforcement agencies. Telecom service providers must assist law enforcement agencies within legal framework and also keeping in view the individual privacy and also following international practices to the extent possible for fulfilling national security needs.
  • Regulatory measures to ensure that safe to connect devices are inducted on to the network. To build national capacity around security standards, security testing, and interception and monitoring capabilities.

[1].Multiple communication service on a single network; See, http://bit.ly/zEA4wa

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