Phased roll-outs of 5G services finally began in October 2022. Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have since been rapidly expanding their 5G coverage to enable customers to access the services on their smartphones. This rapid advancement in 5G has been possible owing to a slew of reforms introduced by the government.

The Ministry of Communications and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) have been working actively to improve the ease of doing business in the sector, promote growth and innovation, and reduce the restrictive processes and procedures that have hitherto delayed infrastructure roll-outs.

The government recently also launched the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP)-2022 along with a set of procedural reforms on wireless licensing and infrastructure dep­loyment, among other things. NFAP-2022 defines future spectrum usage, assigns new frequency bands for 5G and aims to promote innovation and research and development in the sector. The other procedural reforms are expected to aid in faster roll-out of networks and services, and promote ease of doing business through reduced compliances.

Apart from scaling up 5G services, expanding the country’s broadband ecosystem is also on the government’s radar. To this end, DoT recently did away with mandatory testing for certain broadband equipment including routers, cordless phones, transmission terminal equipment and local area network switches, and moved these products to a self-certification regime in a bid to speed up broadband penetration in the country. The move will come into effect on January 1, 2023, and will help companies reduce the time taken to test and certify a product before selling it in the market.

Further, DoT has announced that over 24,600 villages, mostly located in remote and far-flung areas, will be connected via 4G mobile broadband services by December 2023. These services will be provided by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.

All these steps are focused on expanding the overall digital ecosystem in the country and expediting India’s move towards a 5G-enabled country. However, the launch of reforms needs to be followed up with efforts to encourage execution in order to enable a swift transition to a 5G-driven digital world.