LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 INDIA: The government of India is committed to making spectrum scarcity – a problem plaguing the telecoms industry for decades – a thing of the past, proclaimed J.S. Deepak, secretary of the Department of Telecom (DoT).
It aims to allocate spectrum blocks, which follow international benchmarks, to mobile operators so the size and location of the airwaves aren’t an obstacle to providing high-quality voice and data services.
The DoT is pushing an aggressive reform agenda, he said, to help the industry benefit from the economy of scale and reduce costs, so they can pass on the saving to consumers.
“The first spectrum trading, the first spectrum sharing and the first spectrum to be harmonised on a large scale has all happened in the last six months on my watch,” the secretary said.
The DoT reforms are part of the government’s wider policy of making it easier to do business in the country. He said this involves simplifying laws and regulations, making entry and exit easy for foreign investors, promoting technology neutrality as well as providing tax breaks on investment and measures to promote startups.
Reforms take form
In a sign the government is delivering on its reform efforts, the country’s Minister of Communications, Manoj Sinha, said in his keynote that it is looking at eliminating wireless operating licences, which would speed up the rollout of services.
Sinha also said that the government plans to allocate the newly sold spectrum in just one month from the conclusion of the October auction. It took the government many months to release the airwaves in the March 2015 auction.
Deepak said the government of India is committed to working with industry, which is largely driven by the private sector, to taking the mobile revolution and ICT development to new heights. “The prime ministry’s Digital India vision aims to transform India into a digital society, with a knowledge economy.”
To reach that goal, it is concentrating on three major pillars: high-speed broadband access to every citizen, even in the most remote villages; government citizens services, in a paperless and cashless form; and empowering citizens by giving them a voice in the design of the schemes and a choice in accessing services.
He acknowledged the country faces constraints to mobile growth, with one of the most widespread being digital literacy. According to a survey, only 16 per cent of India’s rural household are digitally literate. “This is a matter of great concern.”
The government has launched the digital literacy initiative, with the objective of increasing that figure to 50 per cent in the next three years through various training courses.
“This is extremely important because as digital and mobile become the networks of choice, if people in rural areas are not on this platform because of digital literacy the asymmetry of knowledge that prevails today will transfer into an asymmetry of opportunity, which will have adverse affects on equality,” Deepak said.
Another area of concern, he said, is the inadequacy of local language content. India has 22 languages recognised in the constitution, but a total of more than 200 languages. The government plans to offer all its e-services in 22 languages within 18 months.