The Government on Thursday announced that nationwide mobile number portability (MNP) is expected to be rolled out by February.

This means that users can retain their numbers even if they move from one State (and telecom circle) to another.

Right now, consumers are allowed to switch to a different operator within their circle with the same number.“For the timely implementation of the National Telecom Policy (NTP) 2012, the Department of Telecom has finalised the broad agenda for the next three months from December 2012 to February 2013,” Kapil Sibal, Minister of Communications and Information Technology (IT) said at India Telecom 2012, being organised by FICCI in association with the Ministry of Communications and IT.

Some of the key initiatives to be completed by February, mentioned by Sibal, are approval of spectrum assignment and pricing, unified licensing regime, M&A guidelines, finalisation of guidelines for spectrum sharing, creation of fund for R&D and manufacturing and MNP on a nationwide basis.

Under NTP 2012, the Government had envisaged implementing MNP on a nationwide level allowing users to retain their mobile numbers even when they shift to a different telecom circle. India has 22 telecom circles.

According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), by October-end, about 75.14 million subscribers had submitted their requests to the various service providers for moving to other services.

What needs to be done

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flagged off three major challenges for the industry and the Government to take the telecom revolution to the next level.

The challenges include deepening the penetration of basic telecom services, providing affordable and accessible broadband services, and strengthening the domestic manufacturing capabilities across the entire value chain in telecom and electronics.

Addressing the seventh edition of India Telecom with the theme ‘New Policy Framework: Envisioning the Next Telecom Revolution’, Singh said during the last one year, the Government has taken a number of forward-looking initiatives in the telecom sector.

“We have attempted to clarify the policy positions on a number of complex issues. We have attempted to ensure adequate availability of spectrum and its allocation in a transparent manner through market-related processes,” he said.

“I am confident that the futuristic policy regime that we are now putting in place will address, and address effectively, the concerns that have been worrying investors and will provide a new impetus to the growth of telecommunication industry in our country,” Singh said.

Hardware manufacture

On domestic manufacturing, he said the country needs ‘leaders in telecom and electronics manufacturing’ who can break new ground and create the ecosystems to enable India to become a major producer of hardware.

The new Telecom and Electronics Policies have been already laid down the regime for enabling this to happen and now it was for the captains of the industry, particularly in the ‘private sector that they have to seize this unique initiative’ he said.

“As a major automobile-buying country, we have developed a strong automotive sector. I believe this can be and must be replicated in telecom and electronics as well,” Singh said.

And, as the National Optical Fibre Network project to provide broadband connectivity to all panchayats has been launched, he said it is time to spread broadband services in rural areas, especially with initiatives to provide smartphones and tablet computers at ‘reasonable prices’.

(This article was published on December 13, 2012)
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