The policy side of Telecom Sector
Policy reforms and other measures are necessary to create a level-playing in the telecom industry, ensuring the vision of a connected ‘Digital India’ becomes a ground reality. As part of ‘Digital India’ mission, telecom companies (telcos) are readying to serve a fully-connected nation where every citizen benefits from being part of the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
Shortfall: One of the perennial problems for telecom has been the infrastructure gaps. Despite the industry’s best efforts to dispel radiation myths, the campaign against mobile towers continues unabated. Second, domestic and cross-border payments vis-à-vis various telecom services are under litigation due to the retrospective amendment in the definition of ‘Royalty’ through the Finance Act, 2012. This has raised the cost of telecom services for Indian customers.
Meanwhile, the recent Right of Way (RoW) guidelines are a step in the right direction to propel India into the digital era. These norms can streamline RoW approvals while promoting better connectivity, faster speeds, wider coverage, lower call drops and a better ecosystem.
Pricing and Parity Issues: Firstly, the infrastructure for spectrum of 700 MHz band is presently missing. This band can be pivotal in fast-forwarding the nation’s development goals, including ‘Digital India’. Yet, given the infrastructure shortfalls and the telecom industry’s battles with steep debts, this band needs to be re-auctioned at the earliest – at reasonable rates. Secondly, single-window clearances must be made the norm for the telecom industry and clarity on the Net Neutrality issue is imperative. Thirdly, TSPs lose tremendous volumes of business and their margins are severely eroded. Such a scenario could drive some TSPs into closure, benefitting nobody, least of all customers. Finally, with GST on the anvil, the telecom industry’s concern must be taken into account. Telecom towers require 24/7 maintenance, making diesel usage crucial to overcoming disruptions in power supply.
The above measures will boost the sector’s wellbeing.