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Dial Maran for telecom rejig

New Delhi, Aug. 4: The government will soon unveil a new National Telecom Policy, focusing on rural connectivity, broadband and e-governance.

Communications minister Dayanidhi Maran has set up a committee of senior officials led by Nripendra Misra, secretary in the department of telecommunications, K. K. Jaswal, secretary in the department of information technology, and members of the Telecom Commission to formulate a draft. The new policy for the sector will replace the NTP-1999 formulated by the NDA government.

The draft is likely to be finalised by August 15.

On the day he assumed charge, Maran had said, “I would like to revamp the telecom policy so as to take full advantage of the latest technology to take the country’s communication forward in a big way and to make our facilities truly world class.”

It is yet not clear whether the draft will be sent directly to the cabinet for approval or whether it will be circulated to the stakeholders like private operators, the regulator and consumer organisations.

A senior member of the Telecom Commission said, “The NTP 1999 has completed four years and needed a re-look. Even the NTP-1994 was revised because the technology had changed and the market had undergone a major transformation. It has nothing to do with the change in the government.”

“A new policy need not necessarily be circulated again and again since inputs from all are already available with the government. However, no decision has been taken on this aspect yet,” he added.

The NTP-1994 was drafted by the Congress-led government while the NTP-1999 was formulated by the BJP-led government.

The member said that the principles and the ideas of the ruling political party do get reflected in policy-making and telecom policy is no different.

“There will be important initiatives to boost information technology and domestic telecom manufacturing in the new NTP,” sources said.

The member said the new policy will try and remove the drawbacks in the existing policy that had thwarted growth of local and small entrepreneurs — both in service and manufacturing — in the telecom sector and penetration into the rural areas. The policy will also focus on generation of employment in the telecom sector.

The officials were tight-lipped about the focus areas that would be dropped from NTP-1999, but said it wouldcertainly focus on the use of latest technology to bring down the cost of telecom services.

“We will have a specific roadmap and strive to achieve the goals set in the NTP within five years. This should be good news for the private sector in particular, and to the telecom industry in general, since it will ensure speedy implementation of the directives,” said sources in DoT.

The unified licence, a proposal pending before the telecom regular, that will allow a telecom operator to offer any service with one licence is also likely to be included in the new policy.

Sources said the communications ministry is unlikely to take any initiative on the convergence bill and will wait for the information and broadcasting ministry to take the first move.

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