Editorial: Digital Promise

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Updated: November 22, 2014 1:29:10 AM

Internet-user growth in India is accelerating. Key to servicing it is the right spectrum policy

By the end of this year, India would have edged past the US in internet-user population—with the total reaching 302 million, as per the Internet and Mobile Association of India. This will make India’s the second-largest online population in the world. Given this, the digital sector in India is rife with opportunities for various segments, from e-commerce to e-governance. Thus, the government working towards the maximal implementation of the Digital India programme and setting the right policy environment for e-commerce to thrive becomes crucial for realisation of the potential borne by the surge in internet-user population.

It is against this backdrop that the government needs to take a long, hard look at its telecom policy. Most leading smartphone and OS makers believe the rural markets will be where the next wave of smartphone uptake will come from, and have shaped their cheap smartphone strategies with perhaps solely India in mind. Thus, there is every reason to expect that the largest addition to the online population will come from data services of telecom companies. With the broadband infrastructure plan for villages, the National Fibre Optic Network, yet to take off, powering digital revolution in these areas is banked almost entirely on the telcos. Unfortunately,

India’s spectrum policy remains discouraging for the latter. Therefore, the immediate need for the government is to rethink its stand on spectrum sharing and release the spectrum held with MTNL and BSNL which have failed to use these optimally. It should also tackle the artificial spectrum scarcity quickly.

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