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09 May 2018

Draft National Digital Communications Policy, 2018

The Department of Telecommunication has released the Draft National Digital Communications Policy[i] (“The Policy”) on the May 1st 2018, and has invited public comments on the same. This policy aims to accomplish objectives such as broadband for all, creating 4 million additional jobs, enhancing contribution to GDP, achieve better ranking in ICT index, provide digital sovereignty and such other goals by 2022.  In pursuit of India’s transition to a digitally empowered economy and society, the policy envisages following three missions:

  1. Connect India: Creating a robust Digital Communications Infrastructure.
  2. Propel India: Enabling Next Generation Technologies and Services through Investments, Innovation and IPR generation.
  3. Secure India: Ensuring Sovereignty, Safety and Security of Digital Communications.


Policy targets to provide 50 Mbps broadband for every citizen, 1 Gbps connectively to all gram panchayats by 2020 and 10Gbps by 2022, increase fixed-line broadband access, increase mobile subscriber density, deploy 10 million Wi-Fi hotspots.  The prominent among them are:

  1. Implementing Fibre First Initiative to increase connectivity in Tier I, II, II cities and rural areas. It proposes for a requirement of telecom installations mandatory in commercial, residential, and office spaces by amending National Building Code of India through BIS.
  2. Establishment of a National Digital Grid by creating a National Fibre Authority. Creation of a collaborative institutional mechanism between Centre, States and Local Bodies for Common Rights of Way, standardisation of costs and timelines; and removal of barriers to approvals.
  3. Improve international connectivity by facilitating setting up of International Cable Landing stations.
  4. Enabling infrastructure convergence of IT, telecom and broadcasting sector and accordingly restructure legal, license, and regulatory frameworks; and also bring broadcast and broadband technology within a unified framework for spectrum management.
  5. Identify and make available spectrum bands for 5G networks, optimally price spectrum; further liberalize spectrum sharing, leasing and trading regime; and constitute a Spectrum Advisory Team (SAT) for improvement and efficient spectrum management; conduct systematic audits on spectrum allocations; and promote next generation access technologies.
  6. Strengthening satellite communication technologies by revising licenses & regulations, optimising utilization, and promoting local manufacturing of infrastructure.
  7. Establishing telecom ombudsman and centralized web-based complaint redressal system; focusing on public health and safety standards, and incentivising renewable energy.


For achieving the 2022 goals of attracting investments of $100 billion in this sector, development of Standard Essential Patents (SEP), expand IoT ecosystem, the Policy identifies the several strategies.  The prominent among them are:

  1. Establishing light touch licensing regime for the proliferation of Public Data Offices and Public Data Office Aggregators for providing internet access through Wi-Fi Hotspots; improving Terms and Conditions for Other Service Providers (OSP), compliance requirements, and restrictions on interconnectivity; creating a regime for fixed number portability.
  2. Creating roadmap for emerging technologies such as roll out of 5G, artificial intelligence, Robotics, IoT, Cloud Computing, and M2M; encouraging use of Open APIs for emerging technologies; developing policy framework for Over The Top technology; allocating 13-digit numbers for M2M communications.
  3. Establishing India as a global hub for cloud computing, content hosting and delivery, and data communication systems and services.
  4. Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Big Data in a synchronized and effective manner to enhance the overall quality of service, spectrum management, network security and reliability.
  5. Creating a fund for R&D in new technologies for start-ups and entrepreneurs to enable innovation in 5G, software, content, security, and commercialization of such through grants, scholarships, venture capital, etc.
  6. Fostering intellectual property rights regime to promote innovation; providing incentives for development of Standard Essential Patents; and promote Indian IPR through international collaborations and active participation in standard development processes and IPR related events.
  7. Enable creation of infrastructure of testing of new products and services, allocation of spectrum for R&D, simplifying approvals for products and services for experimentation, promoting start-ups with fiscal and non-fiscal benefits and reducing their entry barriers.
  8. Maximizing local manufacturing by rationalizing taxes and incentivising them, attracting global OEM to setup manufacturing base in India; incentivising design and manufacturing of chips and system on chip; incentivising private operators to buy domestic products.
  9. Upgrading manufacturing PSUs on building technical expertise and knowledge management.


For achieving the 2022 goals of establishing a comprehensive data protection regime safeguarding privacy, autonomy, and choice of individuals; ensuring net neutrality; develop security framework, address issues, and enforce accountability, the Policy identifies the several strategies.  The prominent among them are:

  1. Amending licenses and regulations to incorporate data protection, privacy provisions, net neutrality; ensure its application and enforcement.
  2. Developing security standards for equipment and devices, establishing security certification regime.
  3. Formulating a policy on encryption and data retention, by harmonising the legal and regulatory regime in India pertaining to cryptography with global standards, as applicable to communication networks and services.
  4. Facilitating establishment of a Central Equipment Identity Registry for addressing security, theft and other concerns including reprogramming of identity of mobile handsets.
  5. Facilitating lawful interception agencies with state of the art lawful intercept and analysis systems for implementation of law & order and national security.
  6. Establishing security incident management and response system by enforcing obligations on service providers to report data breaches to authorities and affected users, strengthening audit mechanisms.
  7. Framing and enforcing standard operating procedure during disasters and natural calamities; establish monitoring and warning systems.

The Policy framework has been drafted considering the current technological advancements, connectivity requirements, and data protection regime.  It has set very ambitious and defined targets on certain aspects.  To achieve the above goals, Union Government has to take active participation and collaboration of all the stakeholders including, State Governments and Local bodies, service providers, manufacturers and innovators. It should encourage and incentivise private investment in telecom and digital infrastructure.

[i] http://dot.gov.in/sites/default/files/DraftNDCP2018.pdf


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