Union Telecom minister Kapil Sibal proposed abolition of roaming charges for mobile subscribers in the country.
Currently, the country is divided into 22 circles and consumers pay roaming charges when they make or receive calls outside their home circle.
To enable the “broadband for all” vision to take shape, some 500 Mhz of additional spectrum will be sold through auction by 2020 – with 300 Mhz of that coming up over the next five years.
The main implications of a “one-nation-one-licence” policy are that mobile number portability will become national – you can take your number with you to any part of the country – and roaming charges will be abolished. Currently, MNP is restricted to one circle. In the short-term, the abolition of roaming charges will dent operator revenues on this account, but as business picks up it will even out.
The spectrum policy will be administered though a new Spectrum Act, and those who receive spectrum will be allowed to pool, share and trade it. To ensure that spectrum is not hoarded or wasted, the ministry will ensure periodic audits of spectrum usage.
Highlights of draft National Telecom Policy 2011:
• Draft NTP targets increase in teledensity to 60 per cent by 2017 and 100 per cent by 2020.
• Draft NTP aims for ‘one nation-one licence’; targets full MNP and free roaming.
• Draft telecom policy delinks spectrum from licence; radiowaves to be made available at market price.
• Revenue generation for government will have secondary role under draft NTP.
• Will make 300 MHz of spectrum available by 2017 and another 200 MHz by 2020.
• Will seek Trai’s recommendations on new licences, migration to new licences and exit policy for NTP-2011.
The policy will focus on convergence of TV, internet and internet services. Broadband download speed will be revised to 512 kbps vs 216 kbps. Sibal said that the government will audit the use of spectrum.
As for broadband, the targets are to achieve 175 million broadband connections by 2017, and 600 million by 2020, with every village being connected by a broadband network by 2014. “We want broadband to be a matter of right,” said Sibal.
Talking about other policy objectives, Sibal said the idea was to make India a major global telecom hub, with 80 percent of domestic consumption being met through domestic production. Appropriate policies of preferential purchasing will be put in place to encourage domestic manufactuirng of telecom gear and related products and services.
But while the broad vision is unexceptionable, the devil will be in the details.