Telecom policy 2018: Telcos need a new approach to achieve targets

Rajesh Mishra, co-founder, president and CTO, Parallel Wireless, says telecom operators need a new approach to achieve targets set in the draft telecom policy 2018.

Main Indian telecom operators include BSNL, Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone and Reliance Jio.
The government of India has unveiled the draft National Telecom Policy 2018 with the dual goal of connecting the unconnected and taking the country to the next level of telecom value chain by attracting investments in the new and futuristic technologies.

The new telecom policy sets the target of providing broadband services to all, creating four million additional jobs in the digital communication sector and increasing the contribution of the industry from 6 percent of GDP to 8 percent of the country’s GDP. At the same time, the policy also aims at enhancing data security and digital sovereignty.

With the country on the verge of a digital revolution – thanks to the government’s Digital India initiative and the spurt in data consumption in the country – the new telecom policy looks to give a further boost to the country’s internet and communication sector.

Connect & Propel

The policy outlines two key goals of the government – connecting the whole country to the telecom network and propelling the telecom service quality to the next level with the adoption of better technology like 5G and Internet of Things (IoT).
Parallel Wireless Rajesh Mishra
The broad goals under Connect India mission as outlined in the policy are to provide universal broadband coverage at 50 Mbps to every citizen and fixed-line broadband access to 50 percent of the households, achieve 65 percent unique subscriber density by 2022 and reach 10 million people through the deployment of public Wi-Fi.

The Propel India, on the other hand, has more exalted goals like attracting $100 billion investment in the digital communication sector, expanding the IoT ecosystem to 5 billion connected equipment and re-skilling one million workforce.

The two missions– Connect India and Propel India – elucidated in the policy are entirely contrasting in tone and tenor. While one needs investment in basic infrastructure, another requires the adoption of sophisticated futuristic technology.

With such contrasting goals to work towards, service providers are now in a dilemma. Not that the goals of telcos are not aligned to the larger government policy, it is just that the Indian telecom sector itself is going through a difficult phase. According to the industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the industry has already invested over Rs 9 lakh crore, and it is now saddled with a debt of over Rs 4.5 lakh crore.

To achieve the target of Connect India – which talks about fully connecting and digitally empowering the country’s population – the telecom sector needs a massive capital expenditure (Capex).

Rajan S Mathews, director general of COAI, said the new draft policy proposes extending incentives and exemptions for the construction of telecom towers and provide for accelerated Rights of Way permissions for telecom towers in government premises. This also includes the promotion of solar and green energy for telecom towers.

According to the COAI estimates, the industry may need to invest more than Rs 2-3 lakh crore over the next couple of years to fully connect the country’s population.

Therefore, the telecom sector needs a new approach to achieve the goals outlined in the new telecom policy.

Out-of-the-box thinking

The country’s telecom sector needs to fast adopt low-cost technologies such as cloud, virtualization and similar software-driven approaches to reduce the cost of expanding their reach in the hinterland of the country, says Rajesh Mishra.

Virtualization is fast becoming a popular method of reducing infrastructure cost for the telecom industry. Virtualization reduces the cost of equipment, hardware and saves on energy bills by creating virtual hardware platforms and computer networks.

The concept of virtualization technology increases the capacity utilization of servers in some cases 80-85 percent against 10-15 percent, thus not only makes them more energy efficient but also saves space and reduces the cost of equipment. This technology also makes telcos more flexible regarding adoption of new technologies and adapting to changing consumer preference.