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Affordable Internet To India's Entire Population - National Telecom Policy 2018

While we can’t be sure about anything else that’s going around the world nowadays, one thing is for sure, internet is going to remain a crucial parts of our lives for years to come. India, which has the second largest population on earth, also prides on being one of the world’s fastest growing internet market. The power of internet has gripped the urban and rural population alike in the South Asian country. Unfortunately though, the large numbers and the general infrastructure present in the country has made it impossible for everyone in the country to have an internet connection. Yes, even in 2017, internet is a luxury for many in India. But, all this, is going to change soon.

In a recent statement to Economic Times, Union Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha revealed that the National Telecom Policy, which is due to be refreshed in March 2018, is expected to provide affordable internet access to 1.3 billion Indians, which is precisely India’s total population.

In addition to this stellar announcement, Sinha also revealed that policy will officially flag India’s telecom industry’s advancement towards higher technology like 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), and offering wider services at cheaper rates that are affordable to majority of the population.

Currently, India’s telecom industry is in a battered shape. For the first time since 2008-2009, the sector has seen its revenue decline to Rs 1.88 trillion, from Rs 1.93 trillion the previous year. According to brokerage firm CLSA, the revenues are going to decline further in 2017-18 to about Rs 1.84 trillion. Experts believe that this disruption in the sector is mainly a result of Reliance Jio’s entry in the sector. Reliance Jio, which has taken the Indian telecom sector by storm by providing low-cost and virtually free services to users, has gained over 100 million 4G mobile subscribers in just over an year.

According to Sinha, on the basis of recommendations of an inter-ministerial panel, the Telecom Commission has taken a note of the sector’s flailing health and has vouched to take steps to retrieve the sector back to good health.

Sinha also shared that with the 5G spectrum auctions right in the vicinity, the Indian government wants to bet its money and energy on technologies that are not only “future-proof” and play a significant part in increasing the sector’s revenue, but also help in furthering Modi government’s much popularised Digital India mission.

“Telecom service providers have upgraded their network and there is a substantial improvement in call drops and service quality…The new policy will be forward-looking and current challenges of new technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence will be taken care of,” Sinha added.

Considering that two-thirds of the mobile devices sold in the Indian subcontinent are still feature phones, India as a market holds immense potential for telcos to grow their futuristic services.

According to analysts, improved technologies can increase the Indian telecom sector improve its revenue figure almost by about 20 per cent. They also predict that high-speed data along with AI-enabled services will lead to an increase in consumption numbers, and also coincide with the continuing smartphone popularity in the country.

Reportedly, Indian telcos are currently working on a 100-day action plan, wherein they are planning on committing to invest a whopping Rs 12,000 crore and deploy about 60,000 base transceiver stations. The telecom ministry has also given a green signal to the Indian Railways to provide internet data to 200 railways stations in rural India.

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