Ashwini Vaishnaw, Minister of Communications, Electronics and Information Technology, and Railways

Since its inception, the India Mobile Congress (IMC) has been actively promoting India’s strength and position as a global hub for manufacturing technology products. It has also been highlighting the role of start-ups and small-scale industries in the new digital universe to deliver best-in-class service, equipment and applications. At the India Mobile Congress 2022, Ashwini Vaishnaw, minister of communications, electronics and information technology, and railways, shared his views on the launch of 5G services, the evolving manufacturing landscape and the need for last-mile connectivity. Edited excerpts from his address…

Telecom is the gateway of digital India, and a strong telecom sector is needed in this period of transition. Telecom is the way to bring digital services to every person. The prime minister has given stra­tegic sector status to the telecom sector and now the focus is on the development of te­lecom technology. Further, the prime mini­ster gave regulatory certainty to this se­c­tor and created a transparent system, whi­ch was under litigation until now. As a re­sult of these reforms, today the telecom sector is coming up as a sunrise industry.

The launch of 5G services in India will be recorded in golden letters. With the launch of 5G services, there will be great development in the fields of education, he­alth, agriculture, logistics and digital eco­nomy, and the face of communications will change. Efforts are on to achieve last-mile connectivity in the optical fibre network through an innovative model.

The government is going to set up 100 5G labs across the country. To this end, it is working towards simplifying the licence regime for all telecom players. The telecom industry should convert a minimum of 12 of these labs into incubators to train stu­de­n­ts, and promote innovation, research and ex­pe­riment. Meanwhile, over 200 cities will have access to 5G services in the next six months (by March 2023), and efforts are being made to cover 80-90 per cent of the country in the next two years. The government has provided a market stabilising force status to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Li­mi­ted (BSNL) and has sanctioned a Rs 1.64 trillion package, which is a historic mo­ve. BSNL is expected to launch its 5G services on August 15, 2023.

There is a big fundamental change ha­pp­e­ning in telecom manufacturing in the country. The prime minister has given a ch­all­enge to develop indigenous technology for 4G and 5G. India is marching ahead in tech­nology development and now the world is looking at Indian telecom technology.

Last-mile connectivity is vital to achieve the vision of Digital India. Besides, special assistance to the states for capital expenditure worth Rs 20 billion will be provided. I also encourage the states to be proactive and make business-friendly policies to attract investments.

I thank the government for the great auction of 5G spectrum. This indicates that the industry has now come out of a long period of un­certainty. Most of the le­gacy issues are be­hi­nd us. This is the time to invest in new technologies. The prime minister has giv­en us a clear target and a clear goal. India’s telecom industry has to be benchmarked with the best in the wor­ld. To this end, we have to work in multiple dimensions. The dimension that is within our control, where we are responsible as the government, is the regulatory framework. We are committed to creating a regulatory structure with which stakeholders feel comfortable and which is the world’s best global benchmark. There is a need to plans 10 years ahead. The regulatory framework should ensure that the stakeholders are able to plan out investments in a certain way. We aim to remove all potential sources of uncertainty.

However, we are still driven by laws that were adopted in 1885, 1933 and 1950. It is time to replace that entire legal structure so that the regulatory structure is future-ready without creating any disruption. We will ma­ke sure there is a seamless transition fr­om the existing scenario to one that is totally new. We want active participation in the draft Indian Telecommuni­cation Bill, 2022. Each and every suggestion on the con­sultation paper will be taken seriously. The government has considered the feedback of stakeholders seriously. The telecom secretary is working diligently on the suggestions on the consultation paper. He has prepared a large team so that we can examine each and every suggestion that comes in. We request active interest in formulating the future of our industry as the telecom sector is the foundational industry of our economy. This is the industry that is going to drive the prime minister’s vision to take India on the path to celebrating 100 years of Inde­pendence in 2047, whereby those generations that will be celebrating should thank our generation and feel grateful that the foundation that we are laying is going to help them compete with the world and contribute to the world in a positive way.