The draft of National Telecom Policy (NTP) 2018 aka National Digital Communications Policy 2018 has been uploaded for public consultations on the Department of Telecom's (DoT) website late Tuesday night.

One of the key strategies in the draft talks of recognising spectrum as a key natural resource for public benefit to achieve India’s socio-economic goals, optimise availability and utilisation by making adequate spectrum available to be equipped for the new broadband era.

On spectrum pricing, it said there should be optimal pricing of spectrum to ensure sustainable and affordable access to digital communications and simplifying the process of obtaining permissions from various agencies such as Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) and Standing Advisory Committee on Radio Frequency Allocation (SACFA) in order to promote efficiency.

It also talks about enabling 'light touch licensing/ de-licensing for broadband proliferation'; promoting the co-use/ secondary use of spectrum and constituting a Spectrum Advisory Team (SAT) consisting of experts, industry and academia 'to facilitate the identification of new bands, applications and efficiency measures to catalyse innovation and efficient spectrum management'.

It proposes identifying and making available new spectrum bands for access and backhaul segments for timely deployment and growth of 5G networks and making available harmonised and contiguous spectrum required for deployment of next generation access technologies.

"Further liberalising the spectrum sharing, leasing and trading regime, coordinating with government departments for freeing underutilised/ substitutable spectrum, and its auctioning and/ or assignment along with unutilised spectrum for efficient and productive use," the draft note said.

It said there would be transparent and fair mode of spectrum allocation by developing a fair, flexible, simple and transparent method for spectrum assignments and allocations.

The draft said the Policy aims to accomplish some of the strategic objectives by 2022 including -- Provisioning of Broadband for all, creating four million additional jobs in the digital communications sector, enhancing the contribution of the digital communications sector to eight per cent of India’s GDP from around six per cent in 2017, enhancing India’s contribution to global value chains -- and ensuring digital sovereignty.

"The stakeholders and public are requested to kindly go through the draft policy and give their comments/ inputs to make the National Digital Communications Policy-2018 a robust document and an enabler for achieving the desired goals. Detailed process for receiving the comments/ inputs shall be uploaded shortly," the DoT said in the note.

National Broadband Mission

The draft talks of establishing a ‘National Broadband Mission – Rashtriya Broadband Abhiyan’ to secure universal broadband access for implementation of broadband initiatives, to be funded through USOF and Public Private Partnerships -- BharatNet for providing 1Gbps to Gram Panchayats upgradeable to 10 Gbps, GramNet for connecting all key rural development institutions with 10Mbps upgradeable to 100 Mbps, NagarNet for establishing one- million public Wi-Fi Hotspots in urban areas , JanWiFi for establishing two-million Wi-Fi Hotspots in rural areas -- and implementing a ‘Fibre First Initiative’ to take fibre to the home, to enterprises and to key development institutions in tier I, II and III towns and to rural clusters.

The Policy also speaks about strengthening Satellite Communication Technologies in India and said there would be review of the regulatory regime for satellite communication technologies including revising licensing and regulatory conditions that limit the use of satellite communications, such as speed barriers, band allocation and government would develop an ecosystem for satellite communications in India.

On USOF, it said there would be reviewing the scope and modalities of USOF by redesigning the USOF and broadening its objectives to enable universal broadband access and strengthening institutional capacity of USOF to ensure effective rollout of services in uncovered, remote and rural areas.

On ensuring quality of services, it talks about establishing effective institutional mechanisms to protect consumers’ interests including a Telecom Ombudsman and a centralised web based complaint redressal system. The Telecom Commission has already approved setting up of the Telecom Ombudsman and has asked TRAI to take care of it.

Lastly, the Policy talks of incentivising the use of renewable energy technologies in the communications sector, including utilisation of small cell fuel batteries, lithium-ion batteries or other similar technologies; promoting research and development of green telecom through active participation of stakeholders across government, industry and academia and rationalising of taxes and levies on the manufacture, production and import of such equipment for digital communication technologies.