India's new telecom minister will face several challenges

Here is the long list of challenges for India’s new telecom minister to address.

Gagandeep Kaur, Contributing Editor

June 12, 2024

3 Min Read
A map of India with a magnifying glass on top of it.
Spectrum allocation and BSNL struggles are among the challenges facing the new minister.(Source: Wael Alreweie/Alamy Stock Photo)

India's new telecom minister, Jyotiraditya Scindia, took over from his predecessor, Ashwini Vaishnaw, earlier this week. With the industry facing several challenges, he has his work cut out for him.

"We look forward to working with Hon'ble Minister Shri Jyotiraditya Scindia to advance further policy reforms and spearhead pioneering initiatives that will elevate the digital revolution to the next level, integrating a variety of technological innovations," said Lt. General Dr. SP Kochhar, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) in a press note.

Scindia has mentioned that he will come up with an action plan soon. Here is a list of things likely to be on Scindia's mind as he takes over the ministry in what is the world's second-largest telecom market:

The 6GHz spectrum

Telcos have been demanding the 6GHz mid-band spectrum to expand their 5G networks in the country.

"In the last spectrum auction, we could get only 800MHz [of mid-band spectrum], so to fulfill the requirement, we need to get 1200MHz from the 6GHz range. A recent report by GSMA says that India can save as much as $10 billion annually in 5G network deployment through the use of 6GHz spectrum," said the note issued by COAI. Scindia will need to decide the fate of the 6GHz spectrum soon.

Satellite spectrum

It is still unclear if the spectrum for satellite services will be auctioned or given administratively by the government. The industry is divided on this, and the government needs to make a decision to accelerate the launch of satellite-based services in the country. 

The launch of satellite-based connectivity, which was previously expected to happen this year, will now occur in the coming year. Several players, including Elon Musk's Starlink, Amazon's Project Kuiper and OneWeb Eutelsat, are planning to launch satcom services and are waiting for policy clarity.

Promoting domestic manufacturing

The industry has recommended simplifying testing procedures to further promote domestic manufacturing of telecom gear. are COAI's recommendations to boost telecom manufacturing in the country include increasing the number of test labs and temporarily exempting from customs duty products that enter India for testing and certification.

Reviving BSNL

Up on the agenda is also the revival of the state-owned service provider Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), which continues to struggle to launch 4G. This is all the more disconcerting because it has been almost two years since the private telcos launched 5G. The government's insistence on using indigenous 4G technology has led to the delay and pushed the service provider back by several years.

According to media reports, BSNL has reached out to global vendors Nokia and Ericsson to support the 4G backbone network built by the Center for Development of Telematics (C-DoT). In this scenario, Scindia needs to come up with a viable plan to revive the struggling company.  

Strengthening Vodafone Idea

While Vodafone Idea is in a much better position now than a year ago, it needs to emerge as a strong competitor to the country's top two telcos to avoid a duopoly. The government is the largest stakeholder in Vodafone Idea with 33.3% and will need to strengthen its market position.

Growing India's profile

Over the last few years, India has been trying to make its presence in the global telecom industry. Scindia will likely come up with initiatives to grow the country's contribution to developing 6G standards. In the last two years, India has formed the Bharat 6G Mission and also partnered with the US. Scindia would like to develop initiatives to maintain momentum and foster innovation in the Indian telecom industry. 

Improving quality of services 

The issue of poor quality of telecom services in India has been raised several times, and Scindia will push the industry to take measures intended to ensure better quality at optimal costs.

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Asia

About the Author(s)

Gagandeep Kaur

Contributing Editor

With more than a decade of experience, Gagandeep Kaur Sodhi has worked for the most prominent Indian communications industry publications including Dataquest, Business Standard, The Times of India, and Voice&Data, as well as for Light Reading. Delhi-based Kaur, who has knowledge of and covers a broad range of telecom industry developments, regularly interacts with the senior management of companies in India's telecom sector and has been directly responsible for delegate and speaker acquisition for prominent events such as Mobile Broadband Summit, 4G World India, and Next Generation Packet Transport Network.

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