GS Paper 3
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Directions: This Article has been taken from the Indian Express and the Hindu and discusses the existing flaws in our spectrum policy along with suggesting a way forward.
Context: On September 22, the government released the draft Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022, seeking to replace the colonial era Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.
Draft telecommunication bill, 2022:
- Updated and Consolidated Various laws: It is an attempt by the Department of telecommunication to update the extant regulatory framework and consolidate various legislations presently governing the telecommunication landscape in India.
- Repealed Old legislations: It looks to repeal three legislations i.e. the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950.
- Introduced technological advancements: The new regulatory framework aims to bring the law at par with technological advancements and remove obsolete provisions from the colonial era laws.
Status of spectrum policy in India: India liberalized the telecom sector in 1981. It had initially adopted first-cum first licence policy during the initial days of mobile telephony. However, the 2G scam led to the replacement of the previous policy with the open auction of spectrum.
- Achievement: Despite the recognised failure, India has billion-plus mobile subscribers, and 800 million internet users and hosts the second-largest telecommunications network in the world.
Existing issues concerning the spectrum policy of India:
- Digital divide: Effective access to the spectrum has remained a significant barrier.
- Huge potential but with technical limitations: Spectrum having the characteristics of a public good is also an inexhaustible resource.
- But while spectrum per se is not depletable, there are technical limitations to its optimum utilization at a given point in time.
- High cost of spectrum acquisition: Since 2010, the government has consistently used auctions for spectrum allocation, this has increased government revenues but private companies have increased the rate of mobile telephony to recoup the cost.
- High reserve price: This has often led to low off-take of available spectrum and thus revenue loss for the government.
- According to one estimate, spectrum cost in India is amongst the most expensive in the world.
- Inequity: Commercialization of the spectrum has resulted in some areas being underserved or unserved affecting quality and quantity.
What could be the fresh approach?
- Active promotion of the idea of ‘niche operators’: The draft bill incorporates practical provisions on the spectrum such as use it, share it or lose it – an awaited policy that, however, needs innovative support to be successful.
- Correcting the cost of spectrum and promoting investment in underserved areas.
- Adopting innovative methods: g. Canada has initiated consultations on a non-competitive local licensing framework to facilitate broadband connectivity in rural areas.
- Promoting transparency: The government should build an ecosystem that inspires trust so that transparency in the assignment can be secured at a reasonable price for operators with strict service obligations.
- Enhancing healthy competition
The vision of “Digital India” can never be realised if affordable broadband connectivity remains only within the reach of a few.
- What are spectrum auctions?
- 4g Vs 5g
- LTE vs VoLTE
- Department of Telecommunications (DoT)
Q. Spectrum auction in India has turned into a buyer’s market. Discuss.