MAKING TECHNOLOGY EQUITABLE
Voice and Data|August 2020
MAKING TECHNOLOGY EQUITABLE
The task before policymakers in India is to ensure that the benefits of upcoming 5G technology are made accessible to all at an affordable cost
DR. RS SHARMA

Mobile communication in India has gone through a series of phenomenal changes over the past 25 years. Having achieved the stature and size of this magnitude, the telecom sector in India has kept a legacy and model before other developing economies of the world of a vibrant policy and regulatory environment.

From the time of the first mobile call made on 31 July 1995 to the present, as the world’s second-largest mobile market, India has come a long way. From now on, the mobile sector and the ICT space are ready to embrace many technological innovations related to 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), machine-to-machine (M2M) and beyond. When that historic first mobile telephone call was made 25 years ago, very few would have realized that this will make an indelible mark in the history of Indian telephony and would transform our lifestyle, behavior, the conduct of business activities, etc. forever. Now it is hard to imagine life without a mobile phone.

The evolution of the Telecom sector started in earnest, with the adoption of National Telecom Policy 1994 (NTP-94), which was the first effective step towards deregulation, liberalization and private sector participation in the telecom service sector. The NTP94 defined certain important objectives, including the availability of telephone on demand, provision of world-class services at reasonable prices, ensuring India’s emergence as a major manufacturing/export base of telecom equipment, and universal availability of basic telecom services to all villages.

The opening of the telecom sector to the private sector has led to a huge investment in the sector. The NTP-94 envisaged providing world-class quality of telecom services and the development of telecom services, as well as increasing accessibility of telecom services. It also emphasized to provide the widest permissible range of services to meet the customer’s demand at reasonable prices. The uptake of mobile phones in our country was rather quick and in a short span of few years, say by 1997, the number of mobile phone subscribers grew to 14.5 million, which was in a way started the process of achieving the goal of “telephone on demand” envisaged in NTP-94.

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August 2020