At the recently held India Telecom 2019 in the Capital, Manoj Sinha, Minister of Communications invited global companies from Latin America, Africa, Asean region, Cambodia and delegates from 40 participant countries to partner with Indian manufacturers in the new digital economy, and elaborated how it could be a win-win situation for both.
“India’s economy is advancing rapidly with a focus on sustainable development across all sectors. The Indian government through its concerted efforts has ensured that India remains one of the most open economies in the world. Improvement of India’s ranking in the ease of doing business index from 142nd rank four years ago to 77th rank in 2018 validates our government’s commitment to preserving the business-friendly environment.
In the digital communications sector, the initiatives around ease of doing business have translated into a five-fold jump in foreign direct investment inflows within two years, from USD 1.3 billion in 2015-16 to USD 6.2 billion in 2017-18. The digital communications sector has witnessed transformational changes over the last five years, paving the way for widespread digital innovation in the country. Government spending in the sector has undergone an unprecedented, six-fold increase from Rs 99 billion between 2009-2014 to Rs 600 billion of actual and planned expenditure between 2014 and 2019. Restoration of trust and transparency in the sector has been pivotal in ensuring the phenomenal growth of the sector over the last five years. This has been to digitally empower all citizens of our country while opening up new horizons for the rollout of next–generation and emerging technologies. This has been made possible only when we as policymakers and the industry came together and made resolute efforts to create a robust, competitive and sustainable digital communications eco-system.
Toward this endeavor various reforms have been undertaken over the last five years, allowing spectrum sharing and trading, spectrum harmonization, deferred payment liabilities, easing of right of the rules and charges and introduction of MVNO licenses and allowing them to credit such licensees and the more recent inflight connectivity rules are examples of reforms carried out over the last five years to provide the much-needed impetus to the digital communications sector. The National Digital Communications Policy 2018 approved by the Union Cabinet in September 2018 focuses on futuristic targets, which are to be achieved by 2022. The policy seeks to propel India to a position of digital leadership by enabling next-generation technologies and services through investments, innovation and IR generation and increasing India’s contribution to the global value chain. The policy also seeks to support India’s transition to a digitally empowered economy and society by fulfilling the information and communications needs of citizens and enterprises by establishing an ubiquitous, resilient and affordable digital communications infrastructure that will help India become a trillion-dollar digital economy.
I am so happy to share with you that the determination of the government along with the efforts of the industry has ensured that India today is at the forefront of the digital wave globally. The data trends in this context have been extremely encouraging. We have been able to add 250 million new subscribers, since June 2014 taking the teledensity of India to 91 percent in September 2018.
India has witnessed an eight-fold growth in broadband access from 61 million subscribers in March 2014 to 481 million subscribers in September 2018. On the digital communications infrastructure side, the number of BTSs has grown two-and-a-half times from 800,000 to 2 million in the last four-and-a-half years. Optical fiber network in India too has more than doubled during this period to 1.5 million kilometers in 2018, of which 350,000 kilometers of the optical fiber has been deployed in the government-funded project, BharatNet.
The qualitative transformation in the digital communications sector has acted as a catalyst for major disruptions and innovations. The average mobile broadband consumption per month per subscriber in India stands highest across the globe at 8.3 GB per subscriber per month, a growth of 133 times between June 2014 and September 2018. While providing the most affordable tariffs globally at less than 20 cents per GB, the role of the 4G networks in India has surprised many in the international community with its
speed and its scale. Our industry has been able to achieve this with products and services that are amongst the best in quality and technology at a very competitive cost.
While we are gearing up for the next wave of digital transformation, it is also important to ensure the sovereignty, safety, and security of digital communications. To develop and deploy a robust digital communication network security framework it is important that we also focus on security testing and establish appropriate security standards. We have recently started a state-of-the-art facility for preparation of security assurances standards putting us at the forefront of technology. This facility will work on the security requirements and also facilitate the development of testing and a software ecosystem in the country. We have also launched two web-based portals to ensure ease of testing and certification of digital application products, one being a portal for mandatory testing and certification of telecom equipment and the other being Saral Sanchar portal. These initiatives are an indication of our ministry’s commitment to the vision of Digital India and ease of doing business. It is the right of our consumers to be provided with quality, service, efficiently and securely.
We firmly believe that the 5th generation of mobile technologies is going to be a game changer and transform the way digital communications is perceived. Flagship government initiatives like Digital India and Smart Cities will have a wide economic impact. The economic impact of 5G is expected to be over USD 1 trillion for India. The consequent multiplier effect is expected to be much more, resulting in transformational force for the society at a broader level. It is therefore important to promote and enable investments to build a robust, underlying infrastructure to make 5G a success and hence we are in favor of policies and regulations that will facilitate the development of 5G based technologies and services. India will not miss the 5G bus and to achieve this objective, a working group has already been formed to initiate the implementation of the recommendations of 5 Level Forum, which submitted its report in August 2018. To ensure that we are able to launch 5G services in India along with the world, we have established 5G testbeds through industry academy of partnership and we expect trials to be conducted over the next 12 months. It is our endeavor to position India as a globally synchronized participant in the exploration, design, development, and manufacture of 5G-based technologies products and applications.
Technology must be the tool to eliminate the gender divides, urban-rural divide, the literacy divide and the affordability divide. We ensure that no citizen will be left behind in this transformative experience. The department of telecommunications has been striving to fulfill the honorable prime minister’s vision of Digital India which will bridge the digital divide in this country by uniting urban India with rural Bharat, foster financial inclusion by making typical services available everywhere remotely and provide connectivity to the very last mile.
To ensure high-speed broadband networks across rural India we have undertaken BharatNet project, which is probably the largest digital communication infrastructural program in the world for rural areas. The program is the driving force for realization of our government’s arm to provide broadband for all with universal broadband connectivity at 50Mbps to all citizens by 2020. Under this program, we have already connected nearly half of the 250,000 gram panchayats by laying more than 300,000 kilometers of optical fiber. We also aim to deploy more than 10 million wi-fi hotspots to further our vision of total inclusion of our citizens with broadband connectivity.
We recognize our capability of building and designing eco-systems for digital communications products. Under the leadership of honorable prime minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, the Indian government has launched new initiatives like Jan Dhan Yojana, Digital India, Skill India and Make in India. These initiatives are aimed at ensuring ICT-enabled digital and financial inclusion for every citizen and augmenting government’s delivery with the use of ICT. These initiatives have also helped us take rapid strides in our journey of making India a manufacturing hub for digital communications products.
As per an industry report, India is marked for market growth to 14 percent y-o-y to a total of 124 million shipments in 2017, making it the fastest growing markets among the top smartphones markets globally. We are manufacturing about USD 20 billion worth mobile phones and parts, availability and affordable smartphones at lower rates are expected to drive growth in the Indian telecom industry.
Indian organizations have developed deep engineering capabilities to fulfill smart innovations and also have the ability to train employees at a scale while providing cost-effective business models. This positions them uniquely to support the booming Indian IT sector. And all of us will utilize this opportunity to work together and to collaborate and to form an inclusive development and collaborative manufacturing eco-system. Our collaborative efforts will be the driving force in our mission to fulfill the digital aspirations of our citizens.
In this journey, the time has arrived for incredible India to be your preferred partner in the new digital economy, the backdrop of which is going to be the ICT sector. Wishing you and the industry all the best in outlining the contours for a better digital world”.