Commending the telecom sector’s role in connecting over a billion people as well as making available basic services such as digital payments, telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan has said the new National Telecom Policy (NTP) will expand these efforts beyond the cities to the over 6 lakh villages in India, while at the same time ensuring that they are within the reach of the common man.

“We expect that going forward, a mobile phone is going to become the biggest economic enabler. So, what is important is that this sector must continue to grow. The government has three-four big goals. One is universal access. We want the total coverage and universal rural teledensity. So, this is the plan for 2022. In addition, we want affordable internet for all,” Sundararajan told FE.

Elaborating further, she said mobile for Indians are not just about delivering conventional services like in other geographies, but that education, skill, health, etc is primarily going to be driven largely through handsets.

“So, for all this it is important that, one, the telecom sector must continue to invest for the next 15-20 years if it is to achieve universality and ubiquity with quality of services and affordability. These require significant investments going forward and therefore it is important for us to have a regulatory regime that will incentivize greater flow of investments into this sector. Greater investments into networks, new technology and cyber security,” she said.

Sundararajan stressed that to achieve this there is a need to ‘look afresh’ at policies for resource allocation and resource pricing as well as the regulatory regime.

Another important link in this journey is domestic manufacturing, she said, adding that India has around 300 million smart phones and it needs to go all the way up to a billion, which indicates that the big growth lies ahead. Whether it is network equipment for modernization and upgrade or devices or the cloud infrastructure, all this will have to be ‘Make in India’.

“So, the key facet of the policy will be on how to address these various requirements. As part of this, we not only need to look at where India is today, but where it will be in 2022 or the new India that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is talking about. We know that already virtual reality, data analytics is coming in, so we have to have an infrastructure, which will actually enable all of this to happen. This is the broad vision for the policy,” the telecom secretary said.

On the process for drafting the policy, she said telecom minister Manoj Sinha has already explained that this time there will be the widest possible consultation.

“We have already had the first round of consultation and we got some very good inputs. But going forward, what we plan to do is that working groups will get into focused discussions around these themes and after that we will put out the draft

Besides this time, the ministry will approach the policy not in a vacuum, but with hard data and facts — what is the quantum of investments that India needs, the kind of technology needed, standards and what is the kind of infrastructure needed and all this bench marked against global standards, she said.- Financial Express