India’s cabinet has approved the government’s ambitious National Digital Communications Policy 2018, which aims to drive USD100 billion of investments to the sector by 2022, increase the industry’s contribution to GDP from 6% to 8% and create around four million jobs, the Economic Times reports. Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha was quoted as saying of the move: ‘The government felt the need to come up with a new telecom policy that is both customer-focused and application-driven, given the pace of global transformation in the sector, particularly in emerging technologies such as 5G, IoT and M2M’. The new policy promises to alter the state’s approach to the industry from treating telecoms as a revenue generator to driver of socio-economic development, the minister added, claiming that the financially-stressed sector would be granted some relief. Amongst the other changes highlighted in the policy is a shift in the regulator’s approach to the financial and regulatory burden it places on the industry, with the government set to review spectrum pricing and licence fees, as well as merger and acquisition rules and spectrum sharing.
Meanwhile, sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will be renamed the Digital Communications Regulatory Authority of India (DCRAI), whilst the Telecom Commission – the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT’s) highest decision-making body – will also be relabelled as the Digital Communications Commission (DCC).
Despite the government’s optimism for the sector, the industry’s response has been comparatively muted, with the DG of industry group the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Rajan Matthews commenting: ‘The most important and urgent requirement is to restore financial health of the sector for which the policy document envisages the reduction in levies and ease of doing business. This will help the industry in achieving the goals of and fulfilling the objectives outlined in the policy.’