Private investment drying up, says report


Digital india


India needs an estimated Rs.7 lakh crore for the digital infrastructure upgrade as it is significantly behind in the global digital readiness indices and requires significant infrastructure re-haul for 5G adoption, said a report.

With private investments drying up, there is a need for concrete measures from the government to ease the financing of the digital communication infrastructure in the form of increased budgetary allocations, creation of financial instruments like Broadband Infrastructure Fund, and enhancement of scope of Infrastructure Provider category-1s (IP-1s) to allow them to provide common shareable active infrastructure to licensees and registered players which will allow newer investments to flow into the sector.

There is consensus among all stakeholders that investment in and the adoption of next generation technologies such as 5G, M2M, IoT and cloud is predicated on the pervasiveness and robustness of digital infrastructure, and India should strive to emerge at the forefront of this next wave of digital technologies through focused enablement of digital infrastructure.

The continued focus on strengthening digital communications infrastructure is vital to India’s economic growth, with studies reinforcing the positive multiplier effect that improved broadband penetration and other digital communication metrics have on GDP, said the report by CII and KPMG on ‘Digital infrastructure: Backbone of a digital economy’.

While the National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) has been lauded as a ‘near-perfect’ document by stakeholders, there is also a growing sense that more needs to be done on its implementation to achieve the vision laid out in provisioning of broadband for all, the report pointed out.

The NDCP 2018 is a comprehensive telecom policy which clearly lays out the urgent need to recognise telecom infrastructure as ‘critical and essential’ and telecom optical fibre cables (OFC) as public utilities.

The same degree of collaboration that helped develop the NDCP 2018 needs to be displayed in its execution as well, said the report.

The report examines critical role digital communications infrastructure plays in a country’s socio-economic development, with specific reference to the implementation of the NDCP, India’s seminal digital infrastructure policy.

Yet, there is a need for a detailed roadmap which will help in more efficient, productive and immediate adoption of the policy, said the report launched 5 Feb 2020.

There are also questions on how these projects will be financed, which is especially relevant at a time when the financial health of telecom service providers is already precarious.

More generally, India needs to improve the ease of doing business in the telecom sector, where inefficiencies like absence of common ducting norms, lack of any regulation around creation of telecom installations and cabling in all buildings, continued challenges on right of way norms, non-adherence to fibre standards in public and private sector etc. have delayed mass broadband deployment.

The report goes on to outline recommendations for many of these challenges from innovative ways to finance the digital highway, to laying out a suggestive governance model that can be implemented to ensure smooth implementation of initiatives laid out ibn the NDCP 2018 and also suggestions to improve operational hurdles.

Case studies of successful implementation of digital infrastructure like MahaNet and SagarMala feature alongside insights from the experience of other countries in the development of broadband infrastructure.

While there are specific recommendations for each challenge, the overarching message of the report is that tangible advancement in the state of digital communications infrastructure in India will require cohesive thinking and a collaborative mind-set of all stakeholders involved.

From a governance perspective, the report recommends development of governance frameworks for the proposed National Fibre Authority of India, the formation of FibreMala companies to monitor ground level implementation of broadband expansion projects, along with amendments needed to the Indian Telegraph Act (1885) to bestow ‘OFC’ the status of public utility and ‘telecom infrastructure’ the status of critical and essential infrastructure.


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