India has long suffered from lousy broadband connectivity due to lack of efforts in the expansion of broadband plans. Now things can take a turn very soon, with the release of the draft National Telecom Policy 2018, which seeks to invite comments – indicates that India’s major connectivity will happen in the coming days via the fiber network. Telcos like MTNL, BSNL have constantly missed broadband connectivity targets in the past, and it is due to telcos like Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone that people are able to access the internet using mobile data.
The draft policy outlines that all Gram Panchayats of India should be able to get 50 Mbps to every citizen and 1 Gbps connectivity by 2020 and should then be able to upgrade it to 10Gbps by the year 2022. Also, after this new draft, there is an impending question whether or not Indian telcos will be able to offer 100 Mbps connection to educational institutions across the country.
Apart from that, there is also the target of establishing a broadband connection in 50% of the households, which speaking from today’s perspective is relatively low since a lot of mobile data users suffer from problems like the bad connection, low data speeds and so on. Broadband connectivity would get rid of these problems and would cater to a fast and reliable internet connection for the household users.
In the draft, there is also included a target for unique mobile subscriber density of 55 which is to be accomplished by the year 2020, and then for the year 2022, the target set for the same was 65. This target is apparently going to encourage telcos to strive for more and more subscribers, along with increased investment. However, there has been no official word about any penalty which will be struck on the telcos if they fail to meet these targets.
Talking about the public hotspots in India, the government has set a target of 5 million hotspots in the country by the year 2020 and also a target of 10 million hotspots has been set for the year 2022. Although the numbers look high on paper, they aren’t so much worth in the real scenario. It is our view that these number could go a bit higher.
The draft outlines that these new initiatives which are being talked about will be funded by USOF and Public-Private Partnerships.
There is also the BharatNet which aims at catering 1 Gbps connection to Gram Panchayats which will be further upgradeable to 10 Gbps. GramNet, on the other hand, will be aimed at connecting all key rural development institutions with 10 Mbps connection, further upgradeable to 100 Mbps. A similar project named NagarNet will establish 1 million public Wi-Fi Hotspots in urban areas. The JanWiFi initiative will be aimed at establishing 2 million Wi-Fi Hotspots in rural areas.
The Fiber First Initiative by the government will focus to take fiber-to-the-home, to enterprises and to key development institutions in Tier I, II and III towns and in rural areas as well. The main focus on broadband connectivity front will be fiber-based expansion. The government, in coming years, will also encourage the state and local bodies along with the private sector to work in collaboration for the provision of shared duct infrastructure in municipalities, rural areas and national highways. Its goal is to facilitate Fiber-to-the-tower program to at least 60% base stations, therefore, accelerating the migration to 4G/5G.
The draft also describes that there will be incentives provided for promoting fiber connectivity for new developmental construction. The centre also has plans to establish a National Digital Grid by way of creating National Fiber Authority and establishing Common Service Ducts and utility corridors in all new city and highway road projects. Lastly, the draft also talks about encouraging investments via the way of fiscal incentives in broadband infrastructure, fixed-line broadband and it will also include accelerated depreciation and tax incentives.