DoT matrix jam

Updated: Sep 28 2007, 05:20am hrs
There is no denying the fact that Indias telecom story is one of success. With a total subscriber base of over 241 million, the mobile segment alone accounting for 201 million users, the countrys tele-density stands at 21.2%, up from a mournful figure just a decade ago. Whats more, there has been no let up in the frenzied pace of expansion. India is still one of worlds fastest growing telecom markets, adding nearly six million subscribers each month, thanks in part to bottom-scraping tariffs. Yet, all is not well in the sector. Though DoT, Trai and the industry have been partners in growth all this while, the initiative for ushering in the second generation of reformsvital at this stagelies solely with DoT. It is here that some crucial policy decisions are stuck that could give the sector its next big boost.

Sadly, DoT seems fine with the current state of play. Yesterday marked one full year since Traiwhich has power over little other than tariffssubmitted its comprehensive recommendations on 3G spectrum allocation and pricing to DoT. This would have set the ball rolling on the 3G front. But there has been no action on the part of DoT. The same goes for number portability, a recommendation on which was submitted by Trai in March 2006. Nothing has moved. What explains this complacency Is it the halfway-house-reform syndrome that seems to afflict a country that is almost always in two minds about everything Then theres the recent recommendation of Trai on reviewing the licensing norms in the telecom sector. This could spell substance for the industry if DoT acts expeditiously. But again, there has been silence and more silence from DoT, leading industry players to wonder what it has in mind on policy issues that will determine the sectors future. This heightened sense of uncertainty among players is not good. Already, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has served a legal notice on DoTs delay in allocating spectrum. Such is the exasperation on this crucial matter. The government should be cautioned against letting the sector get entangled in a litigation maze again, for that could well spell the end of the growth story. India has turned from being an under-communicative country to a relatively well-connected one, but there is still a long way to go.