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Will India see a second telecom revolution?

Zafar Anjum | June 16, 2014
In this exclusive interview, Raju Wadalkar, Global Head, CTO, Tech Mahindra, talks about the prospects of the Indian telecom sector after a new government under the leadership of Narendra Modi was recently inaugurated in New Delhi.

The Government should expedite the rolling out of the national optical fiber network plan and allow operators to access the network. As for the national broadband plan, the Government should encourage states to formulate plans along to develop infrastructure within their own cities.

  • The plans can then be implemented through a public-private partnership as have been done for the national highways and the metro rail system.
  • The Government should specify guidelines to for the changes to RoW in consultation with State Governments, and monitor their implementation.
  • A single-window clearance system should be established for operators to implement RoW.

Other Government agencies like Powergrid Corporation, RelTel and Highway Authority already own substantial RoW across the nation and are also planning to become fiber service providers to other telcos. This should reduce the burden on the telco industry for RoW issues.

What changes do you hope for Preferential Market Access policy - how can security restrictions be modified to promote entrepreneurship?

The Government has introduced a Preferential Market Access (PMA) policy to ensure the national security of its domestic networks with the premise that domestic manufacturing will help this cause. However, at this point, India is not ready to enforce PMA, with indigenous telecom manufacturing still in a nascent stage. The Government has recently approved National Policy on Electronics (NPE). While this policy proposes setting up of over 200 Electronic Manufacturing Clusters, much still needs to be done. Telecom R&D in India needs further support from the government and other private players.

The Prime Minister's Office has entered into a dialogue with US technology companies to consider their concerns. This has resulted in a revised version of the Policy that rescinds the application to private sector procurements.

The Government has specified conditions for pre-certification of vendor network equipment /IT systems before insertion into the network. Compliance with this should allay network security concerns.

The private Industry has expressed faith in the Indian system. Technology giant IBM, in a submission to the US International Trade Commission (USITC) agency, has said that India's PMA policy helps ensure a level playing field. Similarly, Boeing has acknowledged to the USITC that India has a strong legal framework to protect intellectual property and that there are no known cases of IP violation affecting Boeing's activities.

In the area of specialized equipment, e.g. fighter planes, the Government lays down conditions for aircraft companies to provide technical know-how to an Indian workforce and set up maintenance plants in India. The Government should consider implementing a similar model for ICT equipment. This will help to provide equipment maintenance domestically, improving service quality and boosting the domestic services market.

 

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