- Total telephone connections rose to 118.9 crore in September 2021 from 93 crore in March 2014, with a growth of 28 % in the said period. The number of mobile connections reached to 1165.97 million in September 2021. The tele-density which was 75.23% in March 2014 has reached 86.89% in September 2021.
- Urban telephone connections rose to 66 crores in September 2021 from 55 crore in March 2014, a growth of 20% while the growth in rural telephone connections was 40%, which is double of urban increase, rising from 38 crore in March 2014 to 53 crores in September 2021. The rural tele-density jumped from 44% in March 2014 to 59% in September 2021.
Jump in Internet and broadband penetration:
· Internet connections jumped from 25.15 crore in March 2014 to 83.37 crore in June 2021, registering a growth of 231%.
· Broadband connections rose from 6.1 crore in March 2014 to 79 crores in June 2021, growing by about 1200%.
· Average revenue realization per subscriber per GB wireless data reduced to Rs. 9.8 in June 2021 from Rs. 268.97 in December 2014, a reduction of more than 96%.
· Average monthly data consumption per wireless data subscriber increased by 22605% to 14 GB in June 2021 from 61.66 MB in March 2014.
Growth in BTS and Towers:
· The number of Mobile Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) increased from 8 lakh in 2014 to 23 lakhs in 2021 growing by 187 %.
· The number of mobile towers increased from 4 lakh in 2014 to 6.6 lakh in 2021 growing by 65%.
Increase in FDI:
- Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in telecom sector rose by around 150% between 2014-2021 from Rs. 62,386 Crore in 2002 to 2014 to Rs. 1,55,353 crore during 2014-2021.
(B) TELECOM REFORMS
(i) Telecom Reforms announced on 15.9.2021:
In view of the telecom industry facing financial stress and challenges on issues like liquidity, rationalization of levies, Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) and spectrum pricing, the Government has approved a number of structural and process reforms in the Telecom sector:
(a) Structural Reforms
1. Rationalization of AGR: Non-telecom revenue will be excluded on prospective basis from the definition of AGR.
2. Bank Guarantees (BGs) rationalized: Huge reduction in BG requirements (80%) against License Fee (LF) and other similar levies. No requirements for multiple BGs in different Licensed Service Areas (LSAs) regions in the country. Instead, one BG will be enough.
3. Interest rates rationalized/ Penalties removed: From 1st October, 2021, delayed payments of License Fee (LF)/Spectrum Usage Charge (SUC) will attract interest rate of SBI’s MCLR plus 2% instead of MCLR plus 4%; interest compounded annually instead of monthly; penalty and interest on penalty removed.
4. For Auctions held henceforth, no BGs will be required to secure instalment payments. Industry has matured and the past practice of BG is no longer required.
5. Spectrum Tenure: In future Auctions, tenure of spectrum increased from 20 to 30 years.
6. Surrender of spectrum will be permitted after 10 years for spectrum acquired in the future auctions.
7. No Spectrum Usage Charge (SUC) for spectrum acquired in future spectrum auctions.
8. Spectrum sharing encouraged- additional SUC of 0.5% for spectrum sharing removed.
9. To encourage investment, 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) under automatic route permitted in Telecom Sector. All safeguards will apply.
(b) Procedural Reforms
10. Auction calendar fixed – Spectrum auctions to be normally held in the last quarter of every financial year.
11. Ease of doing business promoted – cumbersome requirement of licenses under 1953 Customs Notification for wireless equipment removed. Replaced with self-declaration.
12. Know Your Customers (KYC) reforms: Self-KYC (App based) permitted. E-KYC rate revised to only One Rupee. Shifting from Prepaid to Post-paid and vice-versa will not require fresh KYC.
13. Paper Customer Acquisition Forms (CAF) will be replaced by digital storage of data. Nearly 300-400 crore paper CAFs lying in various warehouses of TSPs will not be required. Warehouse audit of CAF will not be required.
14. Standing Advisory Committee on Radio Frequency Allocation (SACFA) clearance for telecom towers eased. DOT will accept data on a portal based on self-declaration basis. Portals of other Agencies (such as Civil Aviation) will be linked with DOT Portal.
(c) Addressing Liquidity requirements of Telecom Service Providers
The Government approved the following for all the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs):
15. Moratorium/Deferment of up to four years in annual payments of dues arising out of the AGR judgement, with however, by protecting the Net Present Value (NPV) of the due amounts being protected.
16. Moratorium/Deferment on due payments of spectrum purchased in past auctions (excluding the auction of 2021) for up to four years with NPV protected at the interest rate stipulated in the respective auctions.
17. Option to the TSPs to pay the interest amount arising due to the said deferment of payment by way of equity.
18. At the option of the Government, to convert the due amount pertaining to the said deferred payment by way of equity at the end of the Moratorium/Deferment period.
C. PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES
(i) Service delivery in villages through BharatNet – Progress in 2021:
· The flagship BharatNet project is being implemented in a phased manner to provide broadband connectivity to all the Gram Panchayats (approx. 2.6 lakh GPs) in the country. The Phase-I has been completed in December 2017 covering over 1 lakh GPs.
· In 2021 (01.1.2021 to 31.10.2021), a total number of 17,232 GPs have been made Service Ready of which 16,344 GPs are on Optical Fiber Cable and 888 GPs are on satellite media.
· As on 01.11.2021, out of the remaining Gram Panchayats to be connected under BharatNet Phase-II, a total of 1,79,247 GPs have been connected by laying 5,52,514 km Optical Fibre Cable (OFC), out of which 1,61,870 GPs are Service Ready.
· In addition, 4218 GPs have been connected over satellite media taking the number of total Service Ready GPs to 1,66,088.
· The scope of BharatNet has now been extended to reach all villages in the country in accordance with the announcement made by the Hon’ble Prime Minister on 15th August 2020.
· On 30.06.2021, Government accorded approval for a revised strategy for implementation of BharatNet through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model in 16 States of the country covering about 3.61 lakh villages (including 1.37 lakh GPs).
(ii) Installation of mobile towers in LWE affected areas: In order to provide mobile connectivity in the areas affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE), the Government has installed mobile towers at 2343 locations under Phase- I of this project and these towers are providing mobile services. Under Phase-II of this project, the Government has approved installation of 2542 towers for providing 4G mobile services and the project is under implementation.
(iii) 210 out of 354 Uncovered Villages covered with mobile services: In order to provide connectivity in villages in border areas of Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Karnataka and West Bengal, the Government has accorded to connect 354 villages. As of October 2021, around 210 villages have been covered with mobile services.
(iv) 4G based Mobile service in 502 uncovered villages under Aspirational District Scheme: In order to boost telecom infrastructure in Aspirational Districts of four states namely Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh & Rajasthan, the Government has accorded to provide 4G based Mobile service in 502 uncovered villages and the project is under implementation.
The Government in November 2021 has further accorded to provide 4G based Mobile service in 7287 uncovered villages of Aspirational Districts of 5 States namely Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Odisha.
(v) 1,358 towers installed under Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan (CTDP) for the North-Eastern Region: Government has drawn up a plan to provide Mobile connectivity in the uncovered villages and along National Highways of Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh in North East region. The projects are under implementation and as of October 2021, a total of 1,358 towers have been installed, covering 1246 villages and 283 National Highway sites.
(vi) Submarine Optical Fiber Cable Connectivity Laid under Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan for Islands :
Andaman & Nicobar Islands: The undersea 2,313 km optic fiber-based telecom connectivity between Chennai and Andaman & Nicobar Islands was inaugurated in August 2020.
Lakshadweep islands: Government has approved a proposal for provision of submarine Optical Fiber Cable Connectivity by laying approximately 1891km of submarine cable between Kochi and Lakshadweep Islands. The project is under implementation and targeted to be implemented by May 2023.
(vii) Launch of Satellite-based broadband connectivity for Lakshadweep Islands: Minister of State for Communications and Administrator to Union Territory of Lakshadweep launched and dedicated to the nation the high capacity satellite-based connectivity for Lakshadweep for providing broadband services on 14.08.2021. Under this Satellite project, the bandwidth has been enhanced from 318 Mbps to 1.71 Gbps for Lakshadweep Islands. For Agathi, Androth, Minicoy & Kavaratti Islands, the bandwidth has been enhanced by 200 Mbps, whereas for Amini, Chetlat, Kalpeni, Kadmath, Kiltan & Bitra Islands, the bandwidth has been enhanced by 100 Mbps.
(viii) 50000 Access points deployed under PM-WANI: The Government on 09.12.2020 approved the proposal to proliferate broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks under the framework of Prime Minister’s Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (PM-WANI). It is expected that with Public Wi-Fi Broadband, the user experience and Quality of Service for Broadband will be improved significantly. This service will be especially useful in rural areas where Public Wi-Fi Hotspots are also being created under BharatNet. Proliferation of Public Wi-Fi Hotspots will lead to increased employment for small and micro entrepreneurs, and provide them with an additional source of income.
Under the PM-WANI framework, online registrations of PDOAs and App providers began on 07.01.2021. As on 23.11.2021, a total of 125 PDOAs and 63 App Providers have been registered by DoT and more than 50000 Access points have been deployed under PM-WANI.
(ix) New Guidelines for Other Service Providers (OSPs): The Department has issued New Guidelines for OSPs on 05.11.2020 and then the Revised Guidelines for OSPs dated 23.06.2021 to further simplify and liberalize the Terms & Conditions for registration of OSPs. It is expected that the New guidelines for OSPs will make the Indian IT/ITeS Industry more competitive in the Global market and further boost the Industry. Under the new guidelines, (i) no registration certificate or bank guarantee required from OSPs,
(ii) Work from anywhere (WFA) in India is permitted
(iii) Sharing of infrastructure between domestic OSP and International OSP is permitted etc.
(x) Online licensing for use of Spectrum: This initiative has been launched on 29.06.2021 to facilitate online licensing for use of Spectrum to conduct Experiments, Demonstrations and for Testing Requirements. The scope of existing Saral Sanchar Portal of DoT, on which applications for Access Services, Internet Services, Internet Services and other licenses are being received, has accordingly been expanded to cover this initiative and to make the approval process faceless, transparent and time bound.
(xi) Liberalisation of Unified License and Commercial VSAT CUG license
The Unified License and Commercial VSAT CUG license regime have been liberalized by permitting:
- Backhaul connectivity through satellite using VSAT to Access Service providers for Cellular mobile services and Wi. Fi hotspots.
- Sharing of VSAT hub for both Commercial VSAT CUG Service and BLD Service
- Sharing of active and passive infrastructure under any service authorization for providing other authorized services to the same license.
- Sharing of gateway hub for HTS satellites, managed and operated by the satellite provider itself, with the satellite bandwidth seeker.
D. HARNESSING EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES
(i) High Throughput Satellites (HTS): HTS have the capability of delivering significantly enhanced data rate as compared to conventional satellites. The deployment of HTS in coming times will be instrumental in providing abundant capacity and connectivity to unconnected or sparsely connected regions. Department has issued notifications on 23.09.2021 and 27.09.2021 which will enable framework for sharing of HTS gateway hubs. The data speed restrictions for different types of satellite-based telecom network deployments have been done away with, thereby enabling deployment of faster throughput networks. The relevant standard has been revised and in line with advancements in technology in this field and will help in realizing the Government’s broadband proliferation initiatives.
(ii) Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite is an emerging satellite technology which offers low latency communication by virtue of low propagation delay. Such new technology satellites may supplement availability of requisite bandwidth that could be utilized for rendering broadband services alongwith voice communication in difficult terrain and far-flung areas bringing digital inclusion and digital empowerment at par with others to fulfil the vision of government.
(iii) Mandatory Testing and Certification of Telecom Equipment: Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), an attached office of this department, completed evaluation of products for determination of trusted sources on trusted Telecom Portal. This is in accordance with mandate under the National Security Directive for procurement of Telecommunication Equipment.
E. INDIA’s RANKING IN GLOBAL INDICES:
- India climbed 21 spots in Network Readiness Index 2021 (released on 2-12-2021), reached to 67th position : In an major improvement India jumped 21 rank, from 88 in 2020 to 67th position in 2021, in Network Readiness Index(NRI) which was developed by World Economic Forum in 2002 and now published by M/s Portulans Institute, Washington. India ranked 3rd among lower middle income countries and 12th among Asia & Pacific countries. The number of countries being evaluated is 130.
The report released on 02-12-2021 reveals that India not only improved its ranking but also improved NRI score from 41.57 in 2020 to 49.74 in 2021 i.e 20%.
The report stated, “India is another strong economy in the region and made one of the most notable improvement in NRI 2021 by jumping 21 positions. The aggressive upward movement resulted from better country-wide performance in addition to the introduction to more relevant indicators to the NRI framework. India displayed significant progress across most pillars and sub-pillars, with the technology pillar (49th ) as it’s best dimension.…”
- India ranks among top 10 in ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) 2020 (release on 29.06.2021): DoT in consultation with concerned stakeholders of Cybersecurity (such as MeitY, NSCS, MHA etc.) had submitted a detailed and comprehensive response to ITU on this issue. As a result, India has jumped 37 places to be ranked 10th in Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) 2020 launched by ITU. India is the fourth among Asia-Pacific nations and the ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) 2020 rankings demonstrates the country’s success and commitment to cybersecurity.
National Telecommunication Institute for Policy Research, Innovation & Training (NTIPRIT), launched a course on “National Security” on 17.05.2021 initially for DoT officers and will later be expanded to cover officials in other Government Department as well as the Private sector.
F. PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
Technology ownership is considered necessary to take lead in the global competitive market and also to make value addition in global supply chains with IPRs. The technology control also facilitates development and production of cost-effective communication network products and devices to bridge digital divide considering the large rural geographies in the country.
Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative provides a big impetus to address current and future technology needs in telecom sector. The following initiatives are being driven in the next generation communication technologies including 5G, upcoming 6G, Quantum Communications etc.
- 5G Test bed: The Indigenous 5G Test bed project funded by DoT has reached its final stages. The eight (8) implementing agencies viz IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Madras, IIT Kanpur, IISC Bangalore, SAMEER and CEWiT have been working over a period of 36 months. Costing ~ Rs 224 Cr, the project is likely to be completed by 31st December’2021, paving the way for end-to-end testing of 5G User Equipments (UEs) and network equipment by 5G stakeholders developing 5G Products/Services/Usecases, including indigenous Start-ups, SMEs, Academia and Industry in the country. The indigenous 5G test bed, a visionary technology development project initiated in telecom space, will enable development, testing and proliferation of 5G technology system components, cross-sectoral usecases, besides setting up foundation for the development of “6G Technology landscape” in the country.
- 5G Reference to TRAI and rollout: In September, 2021, a reference has been sent to TRAI, seeking recommendations for the auction of spectrum identified for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT)/ 5G with regard to reserve price , band plan, block size, quantum of spectrum to be auctioned and conditions of auctions in 526-698 MHZ,700 MHZ, 800 MHZ, 900 MHZ, 1800 MHZ, 2100 MHZ, 2300 MHZ, 2500 MHZ, 3300-3670 MHZ and 24.25-28.5 GHZ bands for 5G public as well as private 5G networks, for meeting the spectrum requirements of captive 5G applications of the industry (Industry 4.0). Process of assignment of frequencies to TSPs would be initiated at the earliest possible.
With regard to rollout of 5G services, Telecom Service Providers (TSPs)- M/s Bharti Airtel, M/s Reliance Jio and M/s Vodafone Idea- have established 5G trials sites in Gurugram, Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Delhi, Jamnagar, Ahmadabad, Chennai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Pune, Gandhi Nagar cities. These Metros and big cities would be the first places for launch of 5G services in the country, next year.
- 6G Technology Innovation Group (TIG): A 6G Technology Innovation Group (TIG) is constituted by DoT with the objective to co-create and participate in the development of 6G technology ecosystem through increased participation in capability description, standards development at international standard setting bodies. This would be necessary to prepare India’s manufacturing and services ecosystem to capitalise on 6G opportunity. 6G TIG, comprises members from Government, Academia, Industry Associations and TSDSI (Telecom Standards Development Society of India). In its 1st meeting on 25.11.2021, TIG members presented the future technology needs in different sectors of economy to enhance India’s contribution in global value chain. Taskforce are formed to make recommendations on aspects viz. Mapping of global 6G activities; India’s competencies and potential pre-Standardization activities; Mission 6G program; Research views on IMT for 2030 and beyond; with regard to Networks , Devices, Spectrum, multi-disciplinary innovative solutions.
- Quantum Communications (QC): C-DOT, the R&D arm of DoT, is currently working on Quantum communication systems. Under the National Mission on Quantum technologies and Applications, the ETG (Empowered Technology Group) has identified C-DoT as the lead agency for Quantum Communications, one of the four components of the National Mission. The TSDSI has recently approved a Study Item to study the need for post-quantum-cryptography in 5G Network in various Industry Verticals and bring out various approaches to evolve a migration path towards security based on post-quantum-cryptography.