Why India’s new communications minister needs to hit the ground running

Why India’s new communications minister needs to hit the ground running

India has a new communications minister. His name is Jyotiraditya Scindia. The former civil aviation minister takes over some, though not all, of the portfolio of his predecessor, Ashwini Vaishnaw.

As for what will be in the new appointee’s in-tray, he will have to hit the ground running; there are a lot of ongoing and imminent challenges to manage.

According to local press reports, high on the agenda will be the struggle to revive state-run operator BSNL, the imminent, albeit delayed, 5G spectrum auction, and ensuring India retains its three-private-player telecom market structure – despite the problems of Vodafone Idea, in which the government is the biggest stakeholder.

The notification of rules under the Telecommunications Act 2023 is due within 100 days of the new government taking charge and will affect spectrum pricing and usage for the satcoms sector. And speaking of satcoms, the question of whether to grant service permits to Starlink and Amazon's Project Kuiper is likely to arise fairly quickly.

Improving QoS for customers and – the industry will certainly hope – cutting regulatory levies for some telecommunications market players may also be issues addressed by the new arrival.

Getting this post at the ministry of communications (he also oversees Northeast development) is seen as a big win for the 53-year-old former Congress MP who left the party of Gandhi and Nehru in 2020.

However, it should be mentioned that his predecessor Ashwini Vaishnaw has retained the electronics and IT portfolio, along with the railway ministry, and has a new duty running information and broadcasting.

Vaishnaw’s focus will probably include driving growth in local mobile phone manufacture and encouraging local chip assembly and manufacture. Helping India to make inroads into the artificial intelligence segment, which is dominated by the US and China at present, could be another focus.

The planned Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Act and the proposed updated Digital India Act, will be important too, especially given the challenge of regulating new and emerging technologies like AI and combating evolving cybercrimes.

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