Regulatory Innovation: The Key to Achieve 5 Billion Connected Devices by 2022

By : |November 15, 2018 0

Quite often we come across references questioning whether M2M / IoT is a new technology, an IT service, or part of the telecom domain? The moot question is how can a smart city, a connected car or a garbage management service be classified as any of the above? IoT services have evolved through the integration of multiple individual services viz, Telecom, IT, Cloud computing, etc. to create a homogeneous solution. The problem that arises with any kind of a templated classification of a service is two-fold – first, the trend gets copied into the regulatory domain and second, the existing regulations of standalone services start getting imposed on the new innovative service(s). If anything, IoT services are a solution that can at best be classified as Software as a Service (SaaS). It leverages the underlying telecom service only for connectivity. Beyond that for making the city smart, or providing smart Insurance services, there is a dire necessity of interoperability of the SaaS services to enable sharing and acting on the intelligent inputs amongst the services.

With the emergence of cyber space based disruptive services, India is already on the path to digital transformation. Today, digital services especially IoT services, have become an indispensable part of an enterprise’s digital transformation into a 24 x 7 connected world. In the early part of 2018, TRAI in its recommendation mentioned that Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M) services would bolster the growth of Industry 4.0. To enable this, TRAI previously spoke for the development of 5G services, IoT/ M2M systems, and their security framework.

Sumit Monga, Head of Government Affairs, Unlimit, A Reliance Group Company

Sumit Monga, Head of Government Affairs, Unlimit, A Reliance Group Company

As we know, post the introduction of The Indian Telegraph Act in 1885, control over the telegraphy came into action and its infrastructure across the subcontinent was developed. This is because the concerned authorities realized the importance and dominance of telegraph on the populace. The act stood the test of the time till the early 1990’s, however, with the emergence of networks, the regulatory environment had to be tweaked to ensure the proliferation of telecom services. The regulatory regime that was put in place viz, the formation of TRAI and adoption of other liberal policies ensured that the services became easily accessible at affordable prices to all the citizens of India and catalyzed the path for breaching of the 1 billion subscribers mark.

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Leveraging the past 2 decades experience, the latest revision of the erstwhile NTP (National Telecom Policy) has been rechristened as the NDCP (National Digital Communications Policy). This will enable it to cater to the new age communication services requirements that are provisioned over the network instead of being native to the network. The forward looking NDCP aspires to achieve an ambitious target of 5 billion connected devices by 2022. The prolific proliferation of telecom services bears testimony to the potential that an enabling policy regime can achieve. A similar approach is required to be adopted if this target of 5 billion connected devices is to be realized in a short span of the next 5 years. The need is to have a de-novo appreciation of the regulatory requirements for IoT services instead of viewing them through the prism of regulations of telecom services alone or the IT Act / Rules. The nuances of provisioning IoT services are different and hence, the existing regulations, guidelines, acts and rules can be used as a reference. They should be tweaked suitably to balance the requirements of government, users and innovators.

In a fast-paced, innovation driven landscape that builds services using big data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), et al, it is difficult to predict, today itself, the kind of services that that would emerge in the future. Therefore, for achieving the 5 billion connected devices mark, it is imperative that the pace of policy formulation matches the pace at which innovative solutions are being churned out by the young innovators.

Given that these innovators are oblivious to any regulations, they get the cognitive freedom for creating smart solutions that ease human living. It is imperative that any regulatory regime that is put in place for IoT services firstly, continues to provide a similar environment in which these innovators are working; secondly, the regulatory regime is able to match the pace of innovation and if possible be ahead of the innovation curve and thirdly, and most importantly, be more collaborative instead of being prescriptive.

By Sumit Monga, Head of Government Affairs, Unlimit, A Reliance Group Company

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