New telecom policy to abolish roaming charges

The cabinet Thursday approved a new telecom policy that seeks to do away with roaming charges throughout the country and simplifies the licencing policy, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said.

“Affordability of the consumers is the core of our policy,” Sibal told reporters after a cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Sibal said the new policy aims at free roaming facility throughout the country.

The policy will separate telecoms permits and radio airwaves, against the current practice of bundling them, and will charge a market-derived price for lucrative airwaves, among other things.

Under the new policy, India will also seek to refarm, or switch, airwave bands held by government agencies and private telecoms operators “from time to time” to make way for new technologies, telecoms minister Kapil Sibal told reporters after a meeting of the cabinet.

Private telecoms carriers have been opposing the airwave switch plan.

The policy, whose broad contours were announced previously, also seeks to ease mergers and acquisition rules in the sector to facilitate consolidation in the crowded market.

India decided to overhaul telecoms rules last set in 1999 after an alleged below-market price sale of telecoms permits bundled with airwaves in the 2008 state grant process, which the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has estimated to have cost New Delhi as much as $34 billion in lost revenue.

India will also relax rules for Internet telephony under the new policy, a move which will be a positive for companies such as Reliance Industries that owns nationwide fourth-generation (4G) mobile broadband spectrum. Internet telephony is currently allowed in India, but in a restricted manner.

The union cabinet also approved introduction of unified licence and authorised the Department of Telecommunications to finalise the new unified licensing regime with the approval of minister of communications and IT.

The thrust areas of the New Telecom Policy-2012 are:

Increase rural teledensity from the current level of around 39 to 70 by the year 2017 and 100 by the year 2020

Repositioning of Mobile phone as an instrument of empowerment

Broadband -“‘Broadband For All” at a minimum download speed of 2 Mbps

Domestic Manufacturing – Making India a global hub

Convergence of Network, Services and Devices

Liberalisation of Spectrum – any Service in any Technology

Simplification of Licensing regime – Unified Licensing, delinking of Spectrum from License, Online real time submission and processing

Consumer Focus – Achieve One Nation – Full Mobile Number Portability and work towards One Nation – Free Roaming

Resale of Services

Voice over Internet Protocol

Cloud Computing, Next Generation Network including IPV6

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