The government on Monday announced a new telecom policy (NTP-2011) proposal that de-linked spectrum from service licences and set unified licences for all services including broadcast.
Under the policy that refreshes the last one made in 1999, spectrum will be priced separately, and new licences will be renewed for only 10 years, Union communications and IT minister Kapil Sibal said. Current licences have 20-year validity.
The policy is expected to be finalised by the end of the year.
“Telecom companies under the (proposed) NTP-2011 will have to file an application 30 months prior for the renewal of the telecom licences and it will be renewed for 10 years unlike 20 years as of now,” Sibal told a news conference, unveiling the policy that clears confusion surrounding spectrum whose sale in 2008 for 2G services triggered a corruption scandal.The government would also adopt liberal policy on merger and acquisitions.
However, there should not be less than six players in each circle after any consolidation measure. Currently, there are up to 12 players in a circle, with many wanting to exit.
The new policy is expected to encourage spectrum sharing, while pricing will be based on demand. Existing service providers, facing a spectrum crunch, will benefit. The pricing mechanism has not been decided yet.
New spectrum law
In order to streamline management and allotting spectrum to service providers, the government is planning the National Spectrum Act. The department of telecommunications (DoT) has constituted a committee under retired judge Shivraj V Patil to draft the bill. Other members of the committee include officials from finance, technical and legal cell of the department. Currently, there is no policy on spectrum management.
Broadband plan coming
The government has constituted a committee under Sam Pitroda, the adviser to the Prime Minister, to look into the issues related to national broadband plan. Nandan Nilekani, chairperson of Unique Identification Authority of India, will be the co-chairman of the committee. The national broadband plan envisages to expand the existing optical fibre network up to panchayats by utilising the universal obligation fund.
Regular audit of usage
Communications minister Kapil Sibal announced that the DoT will hire agencies for regular audit of spectrum and its usage to ensure its proper utilisation. Industry experts, however, are not sure what purpose it will solve. “If you have allotted the spectrum at a market determined price you can not enforce upon the service provider any further audit,” said BK Syngal, former CMD of VSNL (now Tata Communications).