Draft NTP proposes to provide a stable, rational and objective policy regime over next decade or so, says Survey

The much-awaited new National Telecom Policy (NTP) will be delayed by at least two months as the Economic Survey 2011-12 said it was likely to be out by middle of the year. Besides deciding the road map of the sector, the new policy will give some clarity to players on important issues such as spectrum pricing and its sharing.

“A draft of the policy was circulated in 2011 for consultation with various stakeholders. Views/comments from these stakeholders have been received and the same are under consideration. The NTP is likely to be in place by June 2012. The Draft NTP proposed to provide a stable, rational and objective policy regime over the next decade or so,” the Survey said.

Notably, Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal recently said the NTP would be released by April, but the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is finding it tough to give a final shape to the crucial initiative following the Supreme Court order that cancelled 122 licences issued in 2008. After getting approval from the Telecom Commission, the DoT is looking forward to Cabinet clearance.

The NTP envisages doing away with national roaming, which would be a boon for the subscribers, besides allowing mobile number portability (MNP) across circles. It also aims at simplifying and rationalising the licensing regime and putting in place a transparent system for the allocation of spectrum or radio waves, and enabling their efficient usage.

“India is one of the fastest growing telecom markets in the world. The growth of wireless connections has been phenomenal, reaching 893.86 million at the end of December,” the Survey said.

The share of wireless phones of the total connections increased from 80.3 per cent in March 2007 to 96.4 per cent in December 2011.

“The liberalisation efforts of the government are evident in the growing share of the private sector in total telephone connections as against a meagre 5 per cent in 1999, the share of private operators has increased to 86 per cent in December 2011…teledensity has increased from 18.2 per cent in March 2007 to 76.86 per cent in December 2011,” the Survey noted. The total number of telephones increased from 42.97 crore on March 31, 2009 to 92.65 crore in December 2011.

However, the Survey underlined the urban-rural divide in the telecom sector. “While urban teledensity reached 167.4 per cent by last year-end, rural teledensity was only 37.5 per cent.”

It pointed at the slow pace of broadband penetration. There were only 1.33 crore broadband subscribers as on December 31, 2011, while the number of Internet users stood at almost 3 crore at the end of March 2011. “Broadband has lagged behind the growth of telephones in India. Special efforts are being made to increase its penetration especially in rural and remote areas,” the Survey added.

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