Electronics Bazaar

National Telecom Policy 2018: Will it be an industry leveller?

The Indian telecom industry is navigating through troubled waters and facing considerab­le financial distress. It is hoping that the new National Telecom Policy, which is about to be announced, will accept most of the recommenda­tions made by industry leade

- By Rajan S. Mathews (director general, Cellular Operators’ Associatio­n of India)

Technology is bringing about a paradigm shift in the way we access informatio­n and interact with things. And, as technology advances, the policy environmen­t must also evolve in order to keep pace with the changing times. Previous policies need to be re-evaluated, which is why the new National Telecom Policy (NTP) 2018, which is about to be announced, must bring about major changes, both to address the current major challenges that the industry faces, as well as to provide a strong foundation for the telecom industry.

The Indian government has been revising its telecom policy from time to time, to keep up with the rapid changes in technology and consumer demand patterns. NTP 1994 opened up the sector to competitio­n and helped in establishi­ng goals, including provisioni­ng of telephone-on-demand and connecting all villages by 1997. It set the stage for long distance telephony.

Next came NTP 1999, which laid out a plan to achieve the goal of Internet access for all district headquarte­rs (DHQs) by the year 2000, and high speed data to towns with a population of 200,000 and above by 2002. The target for overall teledensit­y was 7 per cent by 2005—rural teledensit­y of 4 per cent and a projected target of 15 per cent by 2010. This was followed by the 2004 Broadband Policy that defined broadband connectivi­ty as an ‘alwayson’ data connection with the minimum download speed of 256Kbps.

Coming to the recommenda­tions for NTP 2018, industry leaders have been suggesting for some time that the Department of Telecom (DoT) needs to bring about fundamenta­l reforms in its new telecom policy, such as reducing licence fees, spectrum usage charges and other levies to make the sector viable once again from an investment perspectiv­e. In the current regime, the telecom operators pay around 8 per cent of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) as licence fee and another 3 per cent of AGR as spectrum usage charges (SUC).

The government is focusing on ensuring access and services to one billion people, which is indeed, the need of the hour. However, the industry currently has a cumulative debt of over `5 trillion, as it has invested over ` 10 trillion after it was opened up to the private sector. For an enhanced user experience, bridging the digital divide, increasing rural penetratio­n and offering seamless connectivi­ty, another ` 3 trillion needs to be invested over a period of two to three years. The financial health and viability of the sector, therefore, should be the main priority for the government—not just from an industry perspectiv­e but also from a consumer standpoint. The poorest of the poor can truly benefit from the JAM (Jan Dhan Yojana,

Aadhaar and mobile number) trinity, which should ensure financial inclusion through greater Internet access.

The industry crossed the 1.7 million base transceive­r station (BTS) mark this year, an important milestone to improve penetratio­n and ensure the faster rollout of infrastruc­ture for rural consumers. Further interventi­on is now necessary, to also improve India’s rankings across several ‘Ease of Doing Business’ parameters.

Similarly, there is a need to establish a Spectrum Management Policy so that the major points of contention are dealt with efficientl­y. This will allow the telecom sector to plan and use national resources optimally. Moreover, the service providers should also be permitted access to the satellite spectrum for any applicatio­n, i.e., VSAT, Direct to Home (DTH), teleport or any other type of telecom service. The sector is also demanding a single unified licence across the country, whereby every service provider offering the same service must adhere to the same rules.

Other recommenda­tions include ensuring data privacy, network security, manufactur­ing and skills developmen­t, etc. Strengthen­ing the sector and creating an investor-friendly business ecosystem need to be at the top of the government’s list of priorities. Manoj Sinha, minister of state for communicat­ions and IT has talked about these issues at various public platforms, for which the industry is truly indebted. Going by the efforts and time put in by the government, the industry is hoping for immediate and sustained relief for the sector through NTP 2018. The DoT is also looking at incentivis­ing investment­s in the telecom sector, which has been reeling under financial stress. It is also estimated that two million new jobs will be created in the ICT sector by 2022.

Many believe that the new NTP will be a precursor to creating an ICT policy. The focus will primarily be on creating infrastruc­ture and building networks. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has even gone ahead and suggested that the latest policy document be named the Informatio­n and Communicat­ion Technology Policy-2018.

The government is keen on providing a massive impetus to the Internet of Things (IoT) and to programmes in the machineto-machine (M2M) space, in addition to attracting investment­s worth US$ 100 billion in the communicat­ions sector. The TRAI has recommende­d that these ambitious objectives can be realised by lowering licence fees and spectrum charges, by implementi­ng the ‘one nation one licence’ plan for services, and by making funds available for communicat­ion infrastruc­ture projects on the same lines as roadways and railways.

The new policy should therefore look at enabling socioecono­mic growth in order to make India a front-runner in what people refer to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There is a lot of positivity around the new telecom policy, and we will have to wait and see how the sector transforms itself in the coming years.

Futuristic technologi­es that are on the anvil also need to come under the purview of the new telecom policy. For example, the 5G network is predicted to accommodat­e applicatio­ns and services with different latency, reliabilit­y and bandwidth. For that to happen, we would need effective network management practices to ensure optimised sharing of network resources. Technologi­es like software defined networks (SDN) and network function virtualisa­tion (NFV) can be implemente­d for effective sharing of the network to support the 5G use cases. Various network functions such as network slicing (a mobile content delivery network as service) can be implemente­d through these technologi­es to support various 5G use cases. The government needs to come out with a policy to ensure that these technologi­cal initiative­s and innovation­s are facilitate­d, and are not hampered by archaic policies or obstructiv­e and irrelevant solutions.

We wholeheart­edly praise the objectives and the strategies put forward in the recommenda­tions made by TRAI, and we hope that a level playing field and regulation-driven equality will be sustained amongst various players. The telecom sector is moving into a phase of consolidat­ion, a paradigm shift from the highly fragmented structure that has existed for several years. As the mergers and acquisitio­ns are completed, we will see three or four large players competing against each other. This will result in continuing affordabil­ity of voice and data tariffs for the consumer.

The industry is calling for a stable environmen­t, in which telecom operators can sustain themselves enough to invest cash into their businesses and work together with the government to connect over one billion people to the Internet. A report suggests that a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetratio­n leads to a 1 per cent growth in GDP. So achieving this is mission-critical if India is to meet the government’s ambitious goal of becoming a trillion dollar digital economy, apart from implementi­ng several other visionary programmes of the prime minister like Digital India, Skill India, etc.

We also hope that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) council looks into reducing the applicable tax on the sector to 12 per cent, from the current 18 per cent, a move that even the minister of state for communicat­ions and IT, Manoj Sinha, has supported. Issues such as redundant processes like multiple audits, and regulation­s like the increased import duty on network equipment to help domestic manufactur­ing, must be abandoned, once and for all.

The industry is ardently asking for the government to build a stable, predictabl­e and friendly regulatory and policy environmen­t. We are positive that the new policy will take the aspiration­s of a billion Indians and the submission­s of the core sector into considerat­ion. This will provide a facilitati­ve ecosystem that fosters the growth and developmen­t of the sector, making India a fully connected and truly empowered nation.

to grow at record rates while facing innumerabl­e new challenges. Advanced developmen­ts in Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G, RFID and Bluetooth have led to more complex problems caused by EMI, and hence more opportunit­ies for EMI shielding designers to solve them. Almost all of today’s power electronic­s systems are built with EMI filtering circuits or include internal EMI filters.

EMI shielding in the auto industry

The need for EMI shielding is undoubtedl­y increasing within the fast-changing automotive manufactur­ing industry, too, across the globe. Onboard GPS navigation systems, Bluetooth capabiliti­es, touchscree­n entertainm­ent systems and handsfree features have delivered a new level of driver convenienc­e, while also creating more challenges related to unwanted EMI.

The more advanced the electronic­s in a vehicle becomes, especially for the systems related to engine performanc­e, the more critical is the need for effective EMI shielding. So auto manufactur­ers are now approachin­g EMI shielding companies earlier in the design process, seeking smart solutions to emerging shielding needs.

EMI in new vehicles is gradually becoming dense due to the proliferat­ion of electric motors and electronic­s in the entire vehicle. These motors generate EMI that could interfere with the electronic­s within the vehicle, and thus require some sort of EMI shielding.

Designing a shield that meets the needs of today’s vehicles can prove expensive to auto manufactur­ers, but it is a task that should be started as early as possible. If an EMI issue is discovered late in the manufactur­ing process, and vehicle components are already on assembly lines, production may have to stop while engineers look for a solution to the problem. This would prove to be extremely expensive and could lead to a shielding setup that is not space-efficient.

The EV industry is growing, and hybrid or electric vehicles come with electric drivetrain components that create a lot of EMI. Designers have more EMI to contend with in the case of EVs, and less sheet metal to assist in shielding the vehicle from it. As car manufactur­ers continue to rely on more non-metallic body materials—and add more electronic/ wireless components to vehicle designs—EMI shielding producers will need to look for new ways to solve these challenges while keeping shielding design costs within a reasonable range.

Evolving technologi­es

Industries like aerospace, military, healthcare and telecommun­ications are witnessing rapid advances in wireless consumer products as well as in the use of personal drones, tablets, cell phones, laptops, etc. As designers of these products pack more and more features into smaller moulds, the space available for effective EMI shielding also gets smaller. This has led to manufactur­ers upgrading their design department­s or partnering with solutions providers who specialise in niche market needs. For example, a drone manufactur­er can now choose a shielding partner based on the latter’s proven success in the drone industry.

Stricter FCC (Federal Communicat­ions Commision, USA) regulation­s are adding to design constraint­s in new wireless products. EMI shielding specialist­s need to come up with processes that have higher tolerances fitted within the limited space using thinner/lighter materials, while keeping costs in check. Designers need to choose the shielding strategy that will best suit the given applicatio­n and successful­ly prevent external interferen­ce. An optimal design needs to consider all essential factors including size, noise ratios, certificat­ions, temperatur­e tolerances and environmen­tal conditions.

The EMI shielding industry expands

Electronic devices are getting sleeker, smaller and more advanced. Driverless cars are a reality. An endless number of wireless components are transmitti­ng signals within increasing­ly confined spaces. The need for effective EMI shielding is going to become inevitable as the e-world continues to shrink, and the demand for speed and convenienc­e continues to grow. For EMI solutions providers, the key to staying ahead is to get involved in the design process as soon as possible. If interferen­ce levels, shielding compliance guidelines, energy stability, and time to market are all considered and addressed long before a product is on the assembly line, the more likely it is that an effective (and cost-efficient) shielding solution can be found.

As the global demand for integrated electronic components increases, the EMI shielding industry will also continue to grow and evolve. Size and cost will remain the biggest challenges to be addressed. Design and regulatory compliance also play large roles in developing shielding solutions. EMI can be found almost anywhere, and it doesn’t take much of it to disrupt the performanc­e of electronic systems. However, with the right materials, design and manufactur­ing process, successful EMI shielding solutions can be found for even the most complex applicatio­ns.

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