Centre for Internet & Society

Snehashish Ghosh throws light on some of the issues and concerns surrounding the recently passed National Telecom Policy 2012.

The National Telecom Policy, 2012 (NTP’ 12) was approved by the Cabinet on May 31, 2012.[1] The primary objective of the Policy is to provide reliable and affordable converged telecommunication services, across the whole nation. It aims at transforming mobile devices into instruments of social empowerment by implementing e-governance and m-governance, and has emphasized on security of networks and secure services to consumers.

The Positives

  • The Policy has exempted additional frequency bands from licensing for public use. It aims to provide small chunks of frequency bands for the purpose of research and development of indigenous technologies and products. NTP’12 further seeks to promote use of white spaces with low power devices, without causing harmful interference to the licensed applications in specific frequency bands by deployment of software defined radios, cognitive radios, etc.
  • On the issue of transforming mobile devices into instruments of social empowerment, the Policy aims to encourage development of mobile phones based on open platform standards.
  • The Policy also wishes to implement measures to include disputes between consumers and telecom service providers within the jurisdiction of Consumer Forums.
  • The NTP '12 will allow spectrum pooling, sharing and later trading of spectrum under the supervision of appropriate regulatory authority. The Policy also dictates regular spectrum audit to ensure efficient and optimum use of spectrum.

 Despite the above mentioned positives, the NTP’ 12 has certain issues.

Access to Telecom Services including Broadband

The Policy has ambitious goals with respect to telecommunication coverage throughout India. It aims to increase the teledensity in rural and remote areas from 39 to 70 in the next five years and 100 by the year 2020. In case of broadband, it wishes to provide affordable and reliable broadband-on-demand by 2015 and 175 million broadband connections in the next two years at a minimum speed of 2 Mbps and 600 million by 2020. However, the policy fails to mention any framework for implementation of such policy mandate. Formerly, the National Broadband Plan, 2004 [2] aimed at providing broadband (minimum speed of 256 Kbps) to 20 million households by 2010 but only 13 million households have broadband connectivity as on May, 2012. The target which the policy wishes to achieve is commendable. But the previous experience with such policy implementation could have been taken into consideration before setting such targets.

Research and Development (R&D), Manufacture and Standards

The World Trade Organization (WTO) mandates national treatment wherein a member country cannot discriminate between domestic and foreign products.[3] The Draft Policy ran into conflicts with this particular WTO obligation with regards to giving preference to domestically manufactured telecom products and equipments.  However, this has been revised and now the policy only seeks to prefer indigenous telecom equipment in case of government and place where national security is involved. This is a good move as it provides better security in case of confidential government communication. However, it fails to give any directive as to production of such secure telecom equipment as well as security standards of such equipment. Moreover, we don’t have any uniform security standards in place.[4]

The NTP’12 aims at transforming India into a ‘global manufacturing hub’. However, it neither mentions deadlines for achieving such goals nor it lays down any framework to achieve such goals.

Unified Licensing Regime

The NTP’12 aims at moving towards unified licensing regime. Under unified licence, the licensee has the right to provide converged services. But if a service provider wishes to render any specific service only (for example internet service providers), then such service provider does not have any option but to procure licence for converged services i.e. a unified licence. In order to implement such unified licensing regime, the Policy needs to further clarify the terms and conditions of such licence.[5] A better approach would be to provide unified licence as well as licence for specific independent services, so that a service provider has the option to provide converged services or selected services

Concerns regarding Security and Privacy of the Consumers

Implementation of voice over protocol (VoIP) is one of the policy directives of NTP ’12. VoIP can be used for anonymous communication which poses a threat to security of the State. The Policy has been criticised by the Home Ministry on this ground and the Ministry asked the Department of Telecom to consult with them before implementing such policy.

The Policy wants to mandate and enforce telecom service providers to take adequate measures to ensure security of the communication sent or received through the networks. The Policy dictates that this will be achieved through ‘contemporary security standards’. The term ‘contemporary security standards’ has not been defined in the Policy. The Policy might have referred to any of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) approved standards to define 'contemporary security standards'.

Another concern with security and privacy is that the Policy mentions that Unique Identification (UID) will become an integral part of electronic authentication framework. UID has been widely criticised on various grounds including privacy. It is important to note that UID can be easily misused, and therefore it  should be avoided for authentication purposes.

Missed Opportunities

NTP’12 does not include any policy mandate for providing accessibility for person with disabilities. The Policy should mandate implementation of systems that would enable  better accessibility for persons with disabilities. This could have included formulation of a Code of good practice for manufactures and service providers, conduct surveys and gather statistics on use of telecommunication services by persons with disabilities, etc.  


The NTP’12 is an ambitious policy, it would be a daunting task for the Government of India to fulfill the objectives within the deadline prescribed by it. 


[1].See New Telecom Policy, Department of Telecom, Ministry of Communications & IT available at  http://tinyurl.com/cwqf3br, last accessed on June 30, 2012.
[2].See the Broadband Policy, 2004, Ministry of Communications & IT, Department of Telecommunications http://tinyurl.com/7e52tbq, last accessed on June 29, 2012.
[3]See generally, National Treatment available at http://tinyurl.com/yg2kkc5
[4].See Elonnai Hickok, Encryption Standards and Practices at http://tinyurl.com/6prhl4q, last accessed on June 30, 2012.
[5].Shalini Singh, Policy promises broadband for all with minimum download speed of 2 megabits, The Hindu, June 1, 2012 available at http://tinyurl.com/bqc6sgr, last accessed on June 30, 2012.

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