Telecom Commission, the highest decision-making body in the telecom ministry, will take up the final draft of the next telecom policy and net neutrality for approval in the upcoming meeting at the end of the month, among other proposals.
Senior officials said that the government would not consider the means of allocation of spectrum in the E&V bands in this meeting. They added, however, that the new policy, for which more than 1000 public and stakeholder comments have come in, would be considered for final approval before being taken to the Cabinet.
"We're expecting to hold the meeting in the last week of this month," said a senior official.
"New telecom policy, net neutrality may be taken up for approval… not taking up the E&V bands’ allocation," the official added.
The DoT issued the draft of the new telecom policy - National Communications Digital Policy - last month with the aim to attract $100 billion (about Rs 6.5 lakh crore) investments in the digital communications sector by 2022 with the help of more reforms in the sector.
The new policy formulation comes at a time when the sector is confronting financial difficulties, with debt of nearly Rs 8 lakh crore. Revenue and profitability of operators have come under severe pressure amid brutal competition accelerated by the entry of aggressive newcomer Reliance Jio. This has also lead to rapid consolidation through the mergers, acquisitions and exits in the sector.
The policy was open till May-end for views of stakeholders and the public, and officials said, more than 1000 comments had come in, which were being reviewed by the department, after which it will be taken to the Telecom Commission for approval.
Part of the deliberations in the upcoming meeting is also likely to be on the hotly debated topic of net neutrality, recommendations for which were made by the regulator. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has backed principles of a free and open internet and prohibited discriminatory treatment of content and practices such as blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content.
Trai had, however, allowed fast lanes for specialised services that DoT must define, and permitted telcos to use traffic management practices to maintain the quality of service. It also kept ‘content delivery networks’ out of the ambit of net neutrality.
The issue of method of allocation of back haul spectrum in the E&V bands, though, will remain untouched at the next Telecom Commission meeting.
DoT has been deliberating internally on the method of allocation of airwaves in the lower frequency bands, which are typically used for backhaul.
ET had reported previously that the department may take legal opinion on the matter and if it decides to take the non-auction route, it may approach the Supreme Court to get the required clearance, since the apex court had allowed only auction of spectrum in its 2012 order.
Spectrum in E band (71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz) and V band (57-64 GHz) would inter-connect mobile towers and could spare telecom operators the trouble of laying optical fibre cables, helping them provide last-mile connectivity, which is why operators have been seeking allocation of the bands instead of auction.