The Government of India has decided to reform satellite communication services in order to smoothen the telecom clearance processes. The new policy reforms were announced on Wednesday as a step to push the telecom industry to accelerate 5G tower deployments. The centre ensures that these reforms are drafted keeping in mind the ultimate vision of expanding digital services to the most remote part of the country.
However, the Centre seems dissatisfied with the way the telecom industry is progressing with the groundwork. Voicing concerns about the current speed of tower deployment, Indian telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that at the moment only 2,500 towers are being deployed per week, which is an extremely low number. Vaishnaw added that the Government of India is expecting the very least 10,000 towers per week.
The minister also reminded the industry and all related stakeholders that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a clear vision to the people of this country and India must become a leader in telecom technology worldwide. He said, “(This) means one has to work on every aspect of telecom technology in creating new solutions, making sure that globally India’s inputs are heard at every forum.” As per the minister, after the policy reforms and every possible support from the Government, the ball now is in the telecom industry’s court.
As per the new reforms, SACFA (Standing Advisory Committee on Frequency Allocation) clearance that was earlier mandatory for the 5G antenna deployed on street furniture will no longer be a must. Also, the process has been made online for all stakeholders’ convenience.
The new policy reforms also have some significant satellite communication-related procedural reforms. These include reducing the various timelines of self-certification of antennas and streamlining the NOCC process to 6 weeks from its present timeline of almost 8 months. It also removes the current “cumbersome processes” and gives nod to mount VSAT terminals on any mobile vehicle.
Amongst various other reforms, another significant change by the Department of Telecom has been the decision to delicense three bands for near-field communications. Near-field communications are used for various equipment like vehicle-related electronics and portable chargers. These are the band for the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine communications (865-868MHz band), the band for in-vehicle equipment (433 – 434.7MHz) and some other bands that are utilized for contactless inductive chargers.
According to the telecom minister, Vaishnaw licences have been already given to five entities. Mukesh Ambani’s Jio got its licence cleared this Wednesday, the minister informed while speaking to the media. Companies like OneWeb have also received a licence. And as for Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink, the company has recently filed its application for a licence. Vaishnaw said, “About 3-4 months is the time it will take for telecom regulator TRAI to come out with its recommendation on this. After that, whatever auction process or other processes, we have to follow.”
On a separate note, the telecom minister also said that all previous issues with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) now stand resolved. The ministry has received comments about the draft telecommunication 2022 bill and expects to receive more by the last date i.e. November 10, 2022. The centre is working in full swing to get the bill passed in the 2023 Monsoon Session of Parliament.