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TTDF to be enhanced to Rs 3000cr, manufacturing to get a boost

In a bid to raise domestic manufacturing of telecom gear, a key government fund aimed at research and development (R&D) in the telecom space may be expanded in the next few months, officials from the department of telecommunications (DoT) said.

Currently pegged at 5 per cent of the annual collections of the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) or about Rs 500 crore, the corpus of the Telecom Technology Development Fund (TTDF) can be expanded to about Rs 3,000 crore, an official said.

Its mandate will also be widened beyond rural-specific communications to include R&D for ‘Made in India’ networking and telecom equipment.

Additionally, the scheme aims to promote technology ownership and indigenous manufacturing, reduce imports, boost export opportunities and create higher volumes of Indian-held intellectual property rights (IPR).

The DoT had invited TTDF applications from industry, academia and government departments involved in technology design, development, commercialisation of telecommunication products and solutions. The deadline for this ended in October last year. More than 200 proposals had been received.

“The idea is to capitalise on research in key areas taking place in the country, and boost them in line with the government’s objectives under the India 5G and 6G missions. It will also help expand our IPR capabilities,” an official said.

The enlarged TTDF may draw from the USOF, he added. As of January 31, the USOF had Rs 79,638 crore in available balance. The USOF remains the government’s primary source of capital for constructing telecom infrastructure nationwide.

Big plans
The government has begun allocating funds for a slew of research in the telecom space out of the TTDF, the most notable being 6 chip design projects, he said.

Under the aegis of the fund, the Centre for the Development of Telematics (C-DoT) and the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, are also partnering to develop prototypes for 10-Gigabit-capable symmetric Passive Optical Network, Optical Line Terminal (OLT) and Optical Network Unit (ONU).

The project aims to facilitate growth of affordable broadband and mobile services in India. A similar agreement has been signed between C-DoT and IIT Jodhpur, for developing artificial intelligence frameworks for automated network management, fault detection, and diagnostic techniques.

The latest push to expand TTDF is in line with the recommendations made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in September, 2023, when it said the fund in its current avatar may not be sufficient to cater to diverse requirements of the sector.

It had recommended the setting up of specific funds with exclusive focus to develop domestic manufacturing of Networking and Telecom Equipment.

As early as 2011, TRAI had recommended the setting up of a Telecom Research and Development Fund (TRDF) with a corpus of Rs 10,000 crore. Business Standard

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