Says new comprehensive policy needed to take care of future requirements
Two months after taking charge as Minister for Communications and IT, Kapil Sibal on Saturday announced a 100-day plan for his Ministry that has been hit by allegations of a massive scam in the allocation of 2G spectrum.
Besides promising transparency in the high-growth telecom sector and formulation of a new telecom policy, Mr. Sibal also talked about making post offices a new channel for financial empowerment for rural India and tackling cyber crime with greater efficiency.
“Within the next 100 days, we will hold consultations with key stakeholders to evolve a clear and transparent telecom regime covering licensing, spectrum allocation, tariffs/pricing, flexibility within licences, spectrum sharing, spectrum trading and, merger and acquisitions. We need a new comprehensive policy to take care of our future requirements,” Mr. Sibal told journalists here.
Taking a dig at his predecessor, A. Raja, who is alleged to have caused the national exchequer “presumptive loss” of over Rs.1.76-lakh crore in allocation of 2G spectrum, Mr. Sibal said: “Current issues in the telecom sector that everyone is today talking about are due to lack of transparency in the sector. We will address all pending issues related to policy, spectrum, licences and security in a very transparent manner to ensure that the growth of the sector is not affected in any way.”
Underlining the need to replace the National Telecom Policy 1999 with a new comprehensive policy, Mr. Sibal said: “Three elements — reasonable revenue for government, affordable services to users and robust growth of the sector — would be kept in mind while framing the new policy. We need to balance all these three elements. The government should not get revenue at the cost of industry, while industry should not make super normal profits at the cost of consumers by keeping tariffs high.”
Asserting that efforts would be made to include telecom under infrastructure sector and treat it as essential services, Mr. Sibal said: “We will try and make spectrum available to the industry after initiating a dialogue with the Department of Space, Ministries of Information and Broadcasting and Defence to get the spectrum vacated for civil use.”
The Minister further said DoT would ensure speedy implementation of mobile number portability (MNP) that allows subscribers to retain their number while changing the service provider. DoT plans to provide MNP in the entire country by January 20. Similarly, on security-related issues regarding 3G services and BlackBerry, he said: “All issues will be resolved soon…steps will be taken to enable operators to launch services without delay.” Similarly, security issues regarding telecom equipment procurement and subscriber verification will also be resolved. Steps will be taken to establish the Central Monitoring System which would facilitate and prevent misuse of lawful interception facility,” he added.
Mr. Sibal also said the Department of Posts would collaborate with leading private sector banks — the IDBI, HSBC and ICICI Bank — to provide ‘White Label Pre-paid Cards' to rural people to facilitate non-cash based transactions for purchase of products and services. Talking about plans for Department of IT, Mr. Sibal said the Ministry would frame and notify rules for data protection and liabilities of service providers under the Information Technology Act to enhance cyber security. “We will also bring out a draft consultation for policy on rolling out mobile governance and draft the Electronic Service Delivery Bill. As part of various e-governance initiatives, the government will focus on nationwide roll-out of e-district mission mode project and draft the Electronic Service Delivery Bill. A draft consultation document on policy for mobile governance will also be brought out,” he added.
A pilot scheme for providing digital literacy to women, especially in rural areas, will also be introduced in the next 100 days. The Department of IT would also set up a National Electronic Mission, while efforts would be made to attract investment in semiconductor units and promote innovation and intellectual property rights.
A national facility for assessing quality of biometric devices for Unique Identification applications will be set up, apart from infrastructure at Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad for testing of large area photovoltaic modules, Mr. Sibal added.