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$100B Investment Eyed: Telecom Commission Clears New National Telecom Policy

The Telecom Commission on Wednesday approved the National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP), or the new national telecom policy, which aims to create 4 million jobs and bring in investments to the tune of $100 billion. “TC has approved the NDCP, which now will go for Cabinet approval,” Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan told reporters after the meeting of the Telecom Commission (TC). The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will now send the policy for Cabinet approval in about two weeks, after which it will be placed before Parliament for approval. Earlier, telecom minister Manoj Sinha had said the policy will be placed before Parliament in the monsoon session, which is scheduled to start from July 18.The DoT received feedback from the public and the industry on the NDCP in May. From providing a minimum download speed of 50 Mbps and enabling 10 Gbps connectivity to all gram panchayats, to attracting $100-billion investment in digital communications by 2022, the DoT has envisaged a very ambitious road map under the NDCP 2018.

Telecom Commission

The policy spells the government’s strategic objective as broadband for all, creating 4 million in digital communications as well as increasing the sector’s contribution in the country’s GDP to 8% from around 6% last year, all by 2022. “The NDCP will propel India into the top 50 countries in the ICT Development Index from the current 134 and will take Digital India to all the homes in the country. This policy will help revolutionalise the telecom and digital ecosystem in the country,” Sundararajan noted.

Telecom operator’s body COAI welcomed the approval of the NDCP 2018 stating that it is a forward-looking policy that promises to usher India into a new era of digital communications, thereby making the Prime Minister’s Digital India dream a reality. The Telecom Commission also cleared DoT’s proposals for installing Wi-Fi hotspots in gram panchayats and development institutions.

“The Gram Net and Jan Wi-Fi have been approved. These are very important schemes. There will be 5 Wi-Fi hotspots in every gram panchayats. We want to complete it by December 2018. Tenders for this will be out by tomorrow or day after,” DoT sources said.

Telecom Commission

The government will provide a viability gap funding of Rs 6,000 crore for installing around 10-12 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots across all the gram panchayats in the country. All police stations, post offices, high schools and secondary schools, primary health centres and community centres will be covered. Interested companies can also form a consortium with telecom operators and internet service providers or they can bid on their own for installing these hotspots.

The policy for Nagar Net, or Wi-Fi hotspots in urban areas, will come out soon. DoT sources said the commission has approved removal of double taxation for VNOs. It was on the basis of Trai recommendations. “This was one of the reasons why VNO service provisioning could not grow in India as expected even when the department gave 67 licences as they were subject to double taxation or three times cascading taxation. With this, now VNOs will only have to pay adjusted gross revenue (AGR) to value added, the same principle as the GST.”

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