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DoT & TRAI officials feel satcom policy needs 'fundamental rethink'

Govt. officials, industry reps opined satellites important for dream of Digital India

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NEW DELHI: Two top Indian government officials from Telecom Ministry and TRAI feel the country must have a "fundamental rethink" on satellite communication policy to meet rising connectivity needs that are being fuelled by mobile data growth, digital aspirations, demand from the country’s broadcasting sector and advent of new-age technologies.

Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan on Wednesday outlined the massive growth in mobile data consumption, driven by first-time users, and India's increasing digital clout, and said there is "no looking back" for the country when it comes to strengthening its communications infrastructure.

She said that in an era of 5G and Internet of Things (IoT), the demand for communication infrastructure "far from slowing down, will increase exponentially".

"We must have digital communications infrastructure that facilitates all this...We really must have a fundamental rethink on India's satcom policy in light of what are the emerging requirements and India's aspirations," Sundararajan said addressing the annual satcom summit 'India SatCom-2018' organised by Broadband India Forum (BIF), a PTI report stated.

She further said that the demand for communication network is also being propelled by financial service industry, digital payment companies, smartphone usage and social media.

Sundararajan noted that the draft national digital communications policy aims to provide universal broadband connectivity at 50Mbps to every citizen by 2022, create four million additional jobs, and also talks of enhancing the contribution of digital communications sector to eight per cent of India’s GDP from approximately 6 per cent now.

"If we are to achieve robust modern digital communications infrastructure that the country needs...it has estimated the need for investment at USD 100 billion. Often, we in government are asked if that is a high figure, but I don't think so...I think this is realistic investment number in sync with our infrastructure requirements," PTI quoted her as saying.

Stating that the country must embark on comprehensive review of its satellite communications policy, she stressed on the need to strike a balance between autonomy, security and the country's communications demand. "...it is possible to find a sweet spot between these three aspects. Other countries have done so, and I don't think it is impossible for India to strike a calibrated position keeping these three imperatives in mind...Keeping our strategic capabilities and requirements in mind, we need to look at how we can bridge the deficit in term of communication requirements," she pointed out.

The summit also delved on various aspects of communications, including broadband connectivity to the remote parts of the country, satellite mobility, inflight connectivity, new technologies and innovations.

Echoing sentiments similar to Sudararajan, telecom and broadcast regulator TRAI secretary SK Gupta, while addressing the valedictory session of the event, opined that “mainstreaming of satcom” issues was heartening.

Pointing out that satellite transponder allocation process in India “needs a review” and the mechanism an “overhaul”, Gupta said that no regulatory hurdle should be created against use of any technology as satellite communication is very important for various applications and services.

The one and half day satcom conference saw the convergence of not only ideas and trends, but also of representatives from the industry and government, including those from India’s space agency ISRO, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and BECIL.

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