Speaking about the financial health of the telecom sector, Minister of Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad said that he would take presentations from officials at the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the industry before taking a view on the matter. Department officials said that the minister’s meetings with various stakeholders will begin from Tuesday. Prasad took charge of the telecom minister’s office on Monday.
The industry expects the government to provide relief in taxation to uplift the financially stressed sector, which saw foreign direct investment during 2018-19 falling to $2.67 billion from $6.21 billion a year ago.
The stressed financial condition of the sector has been a drag on revenues of the exchequer with lukewarm participation in the last spectrum sale back in 2016 as well as falling inflows from licence fee and spectrum usage charges, which are functions of operators’ revenues.
Cheap data and free voice services have resulted in intense competition among the players. Following the launch of Reliance Jio in September 2016, the incumbent companies had to offer services at low prices in order to retain customers which, in turn, impacted the industry’s revenue growth and profitability. The Indian telecom industry, which has a combined debt of Rs 7 lakh crore, has also urged the government to relook at the spectrum usage charges and licence fee.
Even as he commented on the health of the telecom sector, Prasad also said that the government aims to conduct a spectrum auction during the ongoing calendar year — something which operators have expressed apprehensions about due to the stress.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has submitted its recommendations on pricing of spectrum, which includes airwaves ideal for deployment of 5G and 4G. Trai has recommended auction of about 8,644 MHz of telecom frequencies, including those for 5G services, at an estimated total base price of Rs 4.9 lakh crore.
On 5G, where India has fallen behind other countries such as South Korea, Switzerland, the US on test deployment of the latest generation of mobile telephony, Prasad said that network trials will be conducted in the next 100 days.
However, on the issue of Chinese equipment maker Huawei’s participation in 5G trials, he said, “That is a matter to be looked in to seriously, including security aspects before we take a formal view on it. It is not a matter of only technology as far as participation in 5G trials is concerned”.
‘Data protection high on priority of government’
New Delhi: The law on data protection, which has been in the making for over a year now, is high on the priority of the new government, Electronics & IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Monday.
However, Prasad did not commit to a timeline by when the law would become a reality. A senior IT Ministry official in the know said while the Cabinet note for the new act has been prepared, it is pending approval.
The official said that now with a new regime elected, a fresh political view will be taken, after which the act will be tabled in the Parliament. The official added that the Centre is expected to continue its push towards data localisation.— ENS