|Kapil Sibal, Union Telecom Minister
New Delhi, Jan. 1: Communications minister Kapil Sibal today said the ministry would start working towards a new policy, which would recognise telecom as an infrastructure sector and make it an essential service.
Officials said the National Telecom Policy 2011 would look into the problems created by the 1999 policy, which introduced the first come, first served rule for doling out licences and the allocation of spectrum beyond 4.4 megahertz based on a subscriber-linked criteria.
The telecom ministry will create a clear and transparent regime, Sibal said. The new regime would resolve issues related to mobile licensing, spectrum allocation and network security as part of its agenda.
Around 11 years have passed since NTP 99 (National Telecom Policy 1999) and many changes have taken place in the sector in terms of demand, competition and technological changes. There is a need to formulate a new policy and discussions in that direction will be initiated over the next few days, said Sibal.
The National Telecom Policy 1999, which saw a strategic shift from a licence fee regime to a revenue-sharing model between mobile operators and the government, is said to be the main cause for all the alleged irregularities in the issuing of licences and the allocation of spectrum in 2008.
Last month, Sibal started discussions with top telecom bosses to streamline the sector and took their inputs for the proposed new policy.
We will also hold consultations with key stakeholders to evolve a clear and transparent regime covering licensing, spectrum allocation, tariffs, spectrum sharing, trading, MVNOs, M&As in a technology agnostic environment, said Sibal, adding that due consideration would be given to the views of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
According to Sibal, the purpose of a new policy was to ensure that while subscriber tariffs are kept low, the industry remains robust and revenues continue to flow into government coffers.
The ministry will also take immediate steps to resolve all security issues regarding telecom equipment procurement, messenger services and subscriber verification.
Steps will be taken to enable operators to launch 3G services in their entire plentitude without delay, said Sibal.
Under pressure from intelligence agencies, the government had earlier asked mobile operators to ban 3G video calls — which were supposed to be the main revenue earners for the players.
The countrys top security agencies have raised concerns over their inability to monitor 3G video calls on real-time basis. At present, video calls can be monitored at a time lag of 5-8 minutes.
The ministry has also started talks with the department of space, ministry of defence, ministry of information & broadcasting and other public sector entities to vacate spectrum for civilian use.
The rapid pace of mobile growth — the country adds more than 15 million wireless subscribers a month — has clogged spectrum available for operators, leading to poor voice quality and frequent call drops.
Over the next 100 days, mobile number portability, which allows customers to retain their mobile numbers while changing the service provider, will also be implemented all over the country.