Telecom plan envisages ‘one-nation, one-licence’ policy

Seeking to eliminate the ambiguities of the past, the draft National Telecom Policy 2011 will remove national roaming charges, make broadband available on demand, bring in an ‘one-nation, one-licence' policy and allow mobile numbers to be ported to any part of the country.

Under the new draft policy unveiled by Communications Minister Kapil Sibal here on Monday, users will be allowed to port their mobile numbers, keeping the same number, even while switching service areas. It proposes to accord the telecom industry the status of an infrastructure sector, helping it get easy credit flow for funding rollout plans or expansion.

With the policy aiming at an ‘one-nation, one-licence' regime, the distinction between local and STD calls will vanish. Telecom operators would not require separate licences for operations in various parts of the country, and a single licence would suffice. “We will seek Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommendations on new licences, migration to new licences and [an] exit policy,” Mr. Sibal said.

In the wake of the 2G scam, the Minister said, spectrum allocation would be delinked from licences and radio waves made available at market-determined prices. As the market was crowded with too many players, the government would bring in an exit policy.

The draft policy would target full MNP and free roaming. “I want India to become a hub of telecommunication. Draft NTP targets broadband on demand.”

Mr. Sibal said 300 Mhz of radio waves would be made available by 2017 and another 200 Mhz by 2020. “We will ensure adequate availability of spectrum and its allocation in a transparent manner through market-related processes.” Asked whether spectrum would be auctioned this year, he said: “It looks difficult this year.”

Any allocation of spectrum would be delinked from all future licences. Till now, all licences for mobile telecom services were given bundled with a start-up spectrum of 4.4 Mhz. “We shall enact a Spectrum Act which, inter alia, deals with all issues connected with wireless [spectrum] licences and their terms and conditions. There would be a periodic audit of spectrum allocated to service providers.”

The audit would ensure that spectrum, a scarce resource, was utilised effectively and efficiently. The draft policy also talked about permitting spectrum pooling, sharing and, later, trading for optimal and efficient utilisation of the frequency.

The Ministry would draw a road map for availability of additional spectrum every five years.