New Delhi: Telecom users will be able to avail free roaming and keep their phone numbers even if they switch service providers anywhere in the country, as per the draft New Telecom Policy unveiled by the Government on Monday.

The distinction between local and STD calls would vanish, as the policy aims at a 'one-nation-one-licence' regime.

Telecom operators would not require separate licences for operations in various parts of the country and a single licence would suffice.

"We will seek TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) recommendations on new licences, migration to new licences and exit policy," Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said while releasing the draft policy.

In the wake of the 2G scam, the minister said spectrum allocation would be delinked from licences and radiowaves would be made available at market-determined prices.

As the market is crowded with too many players, the government would also bring an exit policy.

600 mn broadband connections by 2020

After ensuring the spread of telephony to every nook and corner of the country, the government on Monday set its eyes on a similar feat for broadband services, setting a target of 600 million high-speed internet
connections by 2020.

The draft National Telecom Policy 2011, unveiled by Minister of Communications and IT Kapil Sibal, went to the extent of likening the broadband connectivity to basic necessities like health and education and proposes to work towards a 'Right to Broadband' for every citizen.

The policy has also called for providing, by 2015, 'Broadband on Demand' services, which would enable affordable, across-the-country, round-the-clock and high-speed internet connectivity to the users.

"The primary objective of National Telecom Policy (NTP) 2011 is maximizing public good by making available affordable, reliable and secure telecommunication and broadband services across the entire country," Sibal said.

The draft NTP-2011 aims to achieve 175 million broadband connections by 2017, and 600 million by 2020.

Telecom Commission, the decision making arm of the Department of Telecom, has already cleared the Rs 20,000-crore project to provide broadband connectivity to all villages in the next three years. It will also lay emphasis on providing reliable and affordable broadband access to rural and remote areas by appropriate combination of optical fibre, wireless and other technologies.

As of now, USOF has a corpus of Rs 16,803.84 crore. Besides, the policy aims at reviving the existing broadband download speed of 256 kbps to 512 kbps, subsequently to 2 Mbps by 2015, and higher speed of at least 100 Mbps thereafter, the draft said.

Further, it plans to establish appropriate institutional framework to coordinate with different government departments/agencies for laying optical fibre cable networks for rapid expansion of broadband in the country.

The policy is also looking at building synergies between the on-going and future Government programmes like e- governance, e-panchayat, NREGA and Aakash tablets and roll-out of broadband.

Telecom industry positive on NTP draft

Welcoming the draft National Telecom Policy (NTP), industry players on Monday expressed confidence that spectrum would be made available at affordable price, and levies would be rationalised on par with other countries.

The draft aims at making available 500 MHz of spectrum by 2020. Also, it plans to do away with roaming charges and allow mobile number portability across the country.

"NTP 2011 released by the Minister of Communications and IT Kapil Sibal is a welcome step in the right direction and signals the government's strong focus on future growth areas such as Broadband and Convergence," said Bharti Airtel's spokesperson.

Bharti also welcomed the proposal to give infrastructure status to the telecom sector and rationalisation of taxes and levies, saying that they will provide much needed relief to the sector.

Meanwhile, CDMA operators lobby group AUSPI Secretary General S C Khanna said, "We are confident that DoT will make available at affordable price optimum quantity of spectrum, rationalise levies to bring them down to those in other countries."

AUSPI welcomed implementation of initiatives like abolition of roaming charges, one nation full mobile number portability, making available broadband in villages, setting up of Telecom Finance Corporation and recognition of telecom as infrastructure sector as well as merger and acquisition initiatives.

CDMA player Sistema Shyam Telecom Ltd also welcomed the draft. "The strong focus to make affordable and reliable broadband available on demand by 2015 along with one nation, one license regime is a welcome move," SSTL President and CEO Vsevolod Rozanov said.

Leading GSM player Vodafone declined to comment saying they needed to go through the draft first, while RCom was not available for comment.

Idea Cellular said it will actively participate in the consultation process as the country formulates the new policy.

"For us, the Government's intention to bring out an exit policy that allows non-serious operators to vacate spectrum; provision for spectrum sharing and according infrastructure status to telecom were clear highlights of the draft NTP announced on Monday," Uninor Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Rajiv Bawa said.