Focus: Facts for Prelims
Why in News?
The Minister of Communications recently attended the opening ceremony of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland, where India demonstrated its telecom prowess in multilateral and bilateral engagements.
- India’s participation coincides with its re-election to the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) Council for the period 2023-2026.
- Since 1869, India has been a member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and has been actively participating in the Union’s operations and activities.
International Telecommunication Union
- It is the specialised agency of the United Nations for information and communication technologies (ICTs).
- It is the oldest of the UN’s 15 specialised organisations.
- It allocates global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, develops technical standards that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect, and works to improve access to ICTs for underserved communities around the world.
- It was founded in 1865 to facilitate international connectivity in communications networks. It is a member of the United Nations Development Group and has 12 regional and area offices across the world. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland.
- Since its foundation, the ITU has been an intergovernmental public-private cooperation organisation.
- It has 193 members, including over 800 public and private sector organisations, academic institutes, and international and regional telecommunications corporations.
What is WSIS?
- The World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2022 is the world’s largest annual gathering of the “ICT for development” community, providing structured opportunities to network, learn, and participate in multi-stakeholder discussions and consultations on WSIS implementation.
- In addition, the WSIS Forum in 2022 will give an opportunity to track the progress of WSIS Action Lines in conjunction with UN Agencies, as well as provide information and analyses on WSIS Action Lines implementation since 2005.
Highlights of the Minister’s Address
- India has created the Low Mobility Large Coverage Standard, also known as 5Gi, which uses a novel waveform to allow 5G towers to cover larger areas in rural and isolated places.
- These were among the first 5G specifications to be accepted by the ITU, and they are now included in the globally standardised 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) Release 17 standards. These will be extremely beneficial to countries with comparable geographic distributions.
- Optical Fibre cable is connecting over 600 villages, with approximately 175,000 currently connected; communities without 4G access are covered by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
- India is focusing on technologies that can help expedite development and close the gap, such as E band wireless carriers, LEO (Low Earth Orbit) and MEO (Middle Earth Orbit) satellite communication, and so on.
- India has issued the country’s first service licence for LEO or MEO connectivity, with the goal of using the technology to provide digital inclusion to rural areas.
- Initiatives to minimise costs, promote faster 5G spread in rural regions, and eliminate dependent on certain vendors include developing a 5G test bed, indigenous 4G and 5G stack, development of Indian 5G standards, and the establishment of a 6G innovation forum.
What is the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)?
- The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) was established with the primary objective of providing access to ‘Basic’ telecom services to people in the remote and rural areas at reasonable and affordable prices.
- Universal Service stands for universal, interdependent and intercommunicating, affording the opportunity for any subscriber to any exchange to communicate with any other subscriber of any other exchange.
- It was created under the Department of Telecommunications in 2002.
- It is a non-lapsable fund, i.e., the unspent amount under a targeted financial year does not lapse and is accrued for next years’ spending.
- The USOF proposes to meet its social, economic, political and constitutional objectives which are as follows:
- To extend the telecommunication network.
- To stimulate the uptake of Internet and Communication Technologies (ICT) services.
- To bring the underserved and unserved areas of the country into the telecom spectrum and narrow down the access gap.
- To use the pooled USO levy for an equitable distribution through target subsidies.
- Subsequently, the scope was widened to provide subsidy support for enabling access to all types of telegraph services including mobile services, broadband connectivity, and creation of infrastructure like Optical Fiber Cable (OFC) in rural and remote areas.
- With access to affordable telecom services in remote and rural areas, the USOF is the right step towards stemming urban migration. This would ensure to generate employment opportunities in the rural areas which would help generate more income.
Who are the partners of USOF?
As per the Department of Telecommunications, there are 24 partners of USOF. It includes:
- Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited
- Tata Tele Services Limited
- Reliance Communications Limited
- Bharti Airtel Limited, etc.