Key Provisions of the National Digital Communications Policy, 2018



On 1st May, 2018, the Department of Telecommunications under the Ministry of Communications rolled out the draft National Digital Communications Policy, 2018 (Draft Policy). Following a round of public consultations on the draft policy, the Union Cabinet approved the final National Digital Communications Policy, 2018 (“Policy”), on September 26, 2018. This Policy, which is largely seen as an initiative aimed at providing ‘broadband to all’[1], will replace the National Telecom Policy, 2012.  This post provides an overview of how the Policy plans to achieve these missions.

Three missions under the Policy

The Policy sets some ambitious goals for the Indian digital communications and telecommunications (“telecom”) sector, ranging from offering 50 Mbps connectivity, attracting investments worth $100 billion into India’s telecom industry and creating four billion jobs.[2] These goals have been classified under three broad missions, which  are to be achieved by the year 2022.[3] These are:

1. Connect India, through which the government seeks to create a robust digital communications structure by promoting broadband for all[4],

2. Propel India, through which the government aims at enabling next generation technologies and services through investments, innovation and intellectual property rights (“IPR”)[5], and

3. Secure India, through which the government seeks to ensure the sovereignty, safety and security of digital communications to secure the interests of citizens.[6]


The remaining section of this post shall deal with each of these missions in detail.

1. Connect India

The Connect India mission focuses on developing internet connectivity and broadband infrastructure across the country. Key strategies that have been listed under the mission to fulfil these goals are:

1.1 Establishment of a ‘National Broadband Mission’ to secure universal broadband access.[7] Under this mission, the government seeks to:

1.1.1 Implement broadband initiatives such as BharatNet[8], GramNet[9], NagarNet[10], and JanWiFi,[11] It is important to note that the BharatNet project has been in place since 2011[12]. In fact, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (“TRAI”) released a set of recommendations on the implementation strategy for BharatNet in February 2016.[13] Around the same time, TRAI also initiated parallel discussions on the proliferation of broadband through public Wi-Fi networks. While the Policy does not mention these developments specifically, the learnings from the TRAI consultations  should be considered while formulating the way forward for the ‘National Broadband Mission’.  Given the number of public Wi-Fi projects that are already in place in the country, it would also be prudent to integrate each project into the broader ‘National Broadband Mission’ to avoid confusion and prevent unnecessary duplication of efforts.

1.1.2 Implement the ‘Fibre First Initiative,’ [14] wherein telecom optic fibre cables are to be given the status of a public utility,[15]

1.1.3 Establish a ‘National Digital Grid’ to facilitate the development of open access next generation networks[16] like 5G networks and

1.1.4 Enable infrastructure convergence of Information Technology (“IT”), telecom and broadcasting by amending the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and establishing a unified spectrum management regime for broadcast and broadband technologies, amongst other things.

1.2 Recognition of spectrum as a key natural resource for public benefit[17] and the promotion of next generation access technologies.[18]

1.3 Strengthening satellite communication technologies in India by reviewing the regulatory regime for these technologies.[19]

1.4 Inclusion of uncovered areas and digitally deprived segments of the society by directing the resources of the Universal Service Obligation Fund (“USOF”) towards enabling access.[20]

1.5 The establishment of effective institutional mechanisms such as a Telecom Ombudsman and a centralised web based complaint redressal system in order to protect consumer interests .[21]


2. Propel India

The goals set out by the government under this mission range from attracting investments of $100 billion in the digital communications sector to acceleration of the transition to Industry 4.0.[22] As per the Policy, there has been an unprecedented transformation in the digital communications infrastructure in the recent past and thus, it is imperative to review the existing licensing, regulatory and recourse allocation frameworks.[23] In order to do the same, the policy lists the following strategies:

2.1 Catalysing investments for the digital communications sector by according telecom infrastructure the status of critical and essential infrastructure, reforming the licensing and regulatory regime and simplifying compliance obligations.[24]

2.2 Implementing an action plan for rolling out of 5G applications and services and ensuring the availability of spectrum for 5G in 6 GHz bands.[25]

2.3 Establishing India as a global hub for cloud computing, content hosting and delivery, and data communication systems and services by evolving regulatory frameworks for promoting and establishing international data centres, content delivery networks and independent interconnect exchanges in India; by enabling in a light touch regulation for the proliferation of cloud based systems and facilitating cloud service providers to establish captive fibre networks.[26] It will be interesting to see how this plan interacts with the country’s data protection law, once it is enacted.

2.4 Recognizing digital communications as a core of Smart Cities.[27]

2.5 Promoting research and development (“R&D”)

2.5.1 By restructuring the government’s Centre for Development of Telematics (“C-DOT”) as a premier Telecom Research and Development Centre,[28]

2.5.2 Creating a fund for R&D in new technologies,[29]

2.5.3 Establishing centres of excellence in spectrum management, telecom security and next generation access technologies, etc.[30]

2.6 Fostering an intellectual property regime (“IPR”) by:

2.6.1 implementing key recommendations in the National IPR Policy pertaining to digital communications, [31]

2.6.2 assisting start-ups and other innovators in filing copyright, patent and trademarks applications,[32]

2.6.3 providing financial incentives for the development of Standard Essential Patents and promoting IPR through international collaborations.[33]

2.7 Simplifying the process of obtaining experimental licenses and establishing regulatory sandboxes.[34]

2.8 Promoting start-ups and small and medium enterprises (“SMEs”).[35]

2.9 Focusing on domestic production.[36]

2.10 Building of human resource capital to facilitate employment opportunities.[37]

2.11 Creating a roadmap to transition to Industry 4.0 by 2020 and establish a multi-stakeholder led collaborative mechanism for the transition.[38]


3. Secure India

The goals set out under the Secure India mission range from establishing a comprehensive data protection regime to building capacity for security testing and establishing appropriate security standards.[39] In order to achieve these goals, the Policy suggests the key strategies listed below. These strategies will have to be implemented in tandem with the data protection measures stipulated under the country’s data protection law, once it is enacted.

3.1 Amending various licenses and terms and conditions to incorporate provisions with respect to privacy and data protection.[40]

3.2 Ensuring that core data protection and security principles are applied and enforced.[41]

3.3 Amending license agreements to incorporate principles of net neutrality and ensure compliance with net neutrality principles.[42]

3.4 Telecom testing and security certification to develop security standards for equipment and devices, aligning with the global safety and security standards.[43]

3.5 Strengthening security testing process by enhancing institutional capacity and establishing comprehensive security certification regime based on global standards.[44]

3.6 Formulate a policy on encryption and data retention.[45]

3.7 Establishing a Central Equipment Identity Registry for addressing security, theft and other concerns.[46]

3.8 Establish a Security Incident Management and Response System for the digital communications sector.[47]

3.9 Frame and enforce standard operating procedures to be followed during disasters and natural calamities.

3.10 Establish a pan-India network for public protection and disaster relief[48] and develop a unified emergency response mechanism.[49]


[This post has been authored by Vartika Tiwari, a third year undergraduate student of National Law Institute University, Bhopal, during her externship with Ikigai Law. Nehaa Chaudhari (Policy Lead, Ikigai Law) and Tuhina Joshi  (Associate, Ikigai Law) gave inputs].


[1] Faizi Noor Ahmad, New telecom policy: what has changed?, The Week, September 27, 2018, available at (Last accessed on October 9, 2018).

[2] Ibid.

[3] National Digital Communications Policy, 2018 (“The Policy”).

[4] Page 4, the Policy.

[5] Page 4, the Policy.

[6] Page 4, the Policy.

[7] Paragraph 1.1, the Policy.

[8] As per Paragraph 1.1(a) of the Policy, the BharatNet initiative aims to provide 1 Gbps internet to gram panchayats upgradeable to 10 Gbps.

[9] As per Paragraph 1.1(a) of the Policy, the GramNet initiative aims to connect all key rural development institutions with 10 Mbps upgradeable to 100 Mbps.

[10] As per Paragraph 1.1(a) of the Policy, the NagarNet initiative aims to provide 1 million public Wi-Fi hotspots in urban areas.

[11]As per Paragraph 1.1(a) of the Policy, the JanWiFi initiative aims to establish 2 million Wi-Fi hotspots in rural areas.

[12] National Broadband Plan: Strategies, design and implementation, Bharat Broadband Network Limited, available at’nal%20B’band%20Plan_Deepak%20Chanduka.pdf (Last accessed on October 10, 2018).

[13] Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Recommendations on implementation strategy for BharatNet, available at (Last accessed on 10 October, 2018).

[14] Paragraph 1.1(b), the Policy.

[15] Aakriti Shrivastava, What is in the new draft national digital communications policy?, Medianama, May 2, 2018, available at: (Last accessed on October 10, 2018).

[16] Paragraph 1.1(c), the Policy.

[17] Paragraph 1.2, the Policy.

[18] Paragraph 1.2(d), the Policy.

[19] Paragraph 1.3, the Policy.

[20] Paragraph 1.4, the Policy.

[21] Paragraph 1.5(a), the Policy.

[22] Paragraph 2, the Policy.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Paragraph 2.1, the Policy.

[25] Paragraph 2.2(d), the Policy.

[26] Paragraph 2.2(f), the Policy.

[27] Paragraph 2.2(h), the Policy.

[28] Paragraph 2.3(a), the Policy.

[29] Paragraph 2.3(b), the Policy.

[30] Paragraph 2.3(c), the Policy.

[31] Paragraph 2.3(d), the Policy.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Paragraph 2.3(e), the Policy.

[35] Paragraph 2.4, the Policy.

[36] Paragraph 2.5(a), the Policy.

[37] Paragraph 2.6(a), the Policy.

[38] Paragraph 2.8, the Policy.

[39] Paragraph 3, the policy.

[40] Paragraph 3.1(a), the Policy.

[41] Paragraph 3.1(b), the Policy.

[42] Paragraph 3.2(a), the Policy.

[43] Paragraph 3.2(b), the Policy.

[44] Paragraph 3.2(d), the Policy.

[45] Paragraph 3.2(e), the Policy.

[46] Paragraph 3.2(f), the Policy.

[47] Paragraph 3.2(g), the Policy.

[48] Paragraph 3.3(c), the Policy.

[49] Paragraph 3.3(b), the Policy.

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