National Digital Communications Policy, 2018 -Explained
- GS Mains Paper-2
- Government Policies and intervention
Why in news?
- The Union Cabinet recently approved the National Digital Communications Policy-2018 (NDCP-2018).
Why has the new policy been formulated?
- The new telecom policy has been formulated in place of the existing National Telecom Policy-2012.
- It comes with a view to cater to the modern needs of the digital communications sector of India.
- Its objective is to facilitate India’s effective participation in the global digital economy.
- The policy aims to ensure digital sovereignty, and the objectives are to be achieved by 2022.
What are the key features of the new policy?
- The government aims to provide universal broadband connectivity at 50 Mbps to every citizen.
- It has kept a target of providing 1 Gbps connectivity to all Gram Panchayats by 2020 and 10 Gbps by 2022 at present the average broadband speeds in the country are 5-6 Mbps.
- The policy will work towards ensuring connectivity to all uncovered areas.
- Measures will be taken to attract investments of $100 billion in the Digital Communications Sector.
- The policy includes the objective of training one million manpower for building New Age Skill.
- It also aims at expanding the Internet of Things ecosystem to 5 billion connected devices.
- Establishing a comprehensive data protection regime for digital communications that safeguards the privacy, autonomy and choice of individuals is also a goal.
- It will thus enforce accountability through appropriate institutional mechanisms, to assure citizens of safe and secure digital communications infrastructure and services.
- As part of the new Policy, the Telecom Commission is to be re-designated the “Digital Communications Commission”.
What are the concerns in the sector?
- Annual investments by mobile phone companies are in the region of around $10 billion annually, which the government aims to increase significantly.
- But it is to be noted that the telecom industry is, mostly, in deep trouble.
- India’s top telecom company, Bharti Airtel, features in Credit Suisse’s list of stressed companies.
- The government is ambitious in plans with 5G, IoT, M2M and other technologies.
- But the policy has still not cut the very high levels of government levies in this regard.
- India’s levies, including the 18% GST, range from 29-32% as compared to just an 11% VAT rate in China.
- There are also no significant plans in cutting high spectrum prices.
- While 100% of spectrum put on auction in 2015 remained unsold due to high spectrum prices, this was as high as 59% in 2016.
- No auctions could take place in 2017 or 2018 due to telcos being cash-strapped.
- Resultantly, revenues accruing to the government from the sector have fallen by around 37% in just the last two years.
- The precarious finances would mean an unhealthy position in terms of repayment of bank loans.
- More worrying is the ability of telcos to make good their spectrum payment obligations from earlier auctions.
- There is not much likelihood of this improving in the immediate future.
- Little progress has been made in providing right-of-way for connecting telecom towers with optic fibre.
- Neither is there a progress in coming up with a sensible policy for the critical E and V bands.
- (Spectrum in E and V band can ease work of telecom operator from laying optical fiber cable, and help them in providing last mile connectivity.
- Data through E and V band can be transmitted with speed of around 1,000 MB per second.)
- Given these, getting the telecom back on track requires a lot more work on addressing the financial and policy issues.