The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a new telecom policy -- National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) 2018 -- designed to provide "broadband to all", Union Communications Minister Manoj Sinha said.
Industry stakeholders and sector experts welcomed the policy describing it as an elaborate document which would be significant for the sector in the long run.
The NDCP, which replaces the National Telecom Policy 2012, aims to establish a "comprehensive data protection regime for digital communications that safeguards the privacy, autonomy and choice of individuals," according to an official statement. It also aims to ensure India's "digital sovereignty".
It seeks to enforce accountability through appropriate institutional mechanisms to assure citizens of safe and secure digital communications infrastructure and services, as per the statement.
The policy, aimed at providing universal availability of 50 mega bits per second (Mbps) and attracting investments worth $100 billion, was approved by the Telecom Commission in July after the government came out with a draft policy in May.
Addressing the media after the Cabinet meeting, Sinha said that among other targets, the policy aims to "provide broadband to all and create 40 lakh jobs". It also aims at providing "ubiquitous, resilient, secure and affordable" digital communication services, he added.
Further, the policy targets to provide 1 Gbps (giga-bits per second) connectivity to all gram panchayats by 2020 and 10 Gbps by 2022.
As per NDCP, the government would establish a National Digital Grid and also form a National Fibre Authority. It also aims to remove barriers in approvals.
It plans to propel India to the top 50 nations in the Information and Communication Technology Development Index of the International Telecommunication Union from 134 in 2017, enhancing the country's contribution to global value chains and ensuring digital sovereignty, the Minister added.
The contribution of digital communications sector would be enhanced to 8 per cent from 6 per cent in 2017 as a result of the new policy, he said.
Further, the government plans to expand the ecosystem of Internet of Things (IoT) to five billion devices and facilitate India's "effective participation" in the global digital economy.
Describing the NDCP as a "well-crafted and comprehensive" policy, Director General of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Rajan Mathews said: "We hope that the DoT will closely monitor the timely implementation of this policy, so that the industry can recuperate from the deepening financial stress."
"...the most important and urgent requirement is to restore the financial health of the sector for which the policy document envisages reduction in levies and ease of doing business," he said.
This would help the industry in achieving the goals of and fulfilling the objectives outlined in the policy, the COAI official added.
Harsh Walia, Associate Partner at consultancy firm Khaitan and Company said: "The NDCP takes into consideration major concerns raised by various stakeholders in the industry. It also paves the way to the
future, especially when it comes to adoption and implementation of emerging technologies."
However, he added that there are certain aspects where the policy falls short of expectations.
On the target of providing 50 Mbps to all, Hemant Joshi, Partner for Technology, Media and Telecom Leader, Deloitte India, said: "Universal broadband coverage of 50 Mbps to every citizen will provide high-quality broadband as well as access to information and government services."
Broadband is slowly becoming a basic amenity for the citizens and through various initiatives, the government is trying to provide high-speed connectivity at affordable prices, he added.
"For high-speed broadband, there is a need of robust backhaul network and the BharatNet project is endeavouring (to provide) this connectivity to 2,50,000 gram panchayats throughout the country," Joshi added.