The telecom department will meet operators and industry associations tomorrow to brainstorm on the new telecom policy, according to industry sources.
The telecom department will meet operators and industry associations tomorrow to brainstorm on the new telecom policy, according to industry sources. The meeting is expected to be chaired by Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan, and service providers as well as prominent industry bodies have been invited to place their ideas and inputs on the upcoming policy, said multiple sources. Earlier this month, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha had told PTI that a National Telecom Policy is currently under formulation.
The policy in the offing, will focus on areas such as Internet for all, next-generation technologies (like 5G and Internet of Things), skills development, and security, among others. The DoT plans to go for a wide consultation and outreach before finalising the new policy, and expects to have it in place by March 2018. The new policy formulation comes at a time when the sector is confronting financial difficulties. Revenue and profitability of both large and small operators have come under severe pressure after the entry of aggressive newcomer Reliance Jio and the subsequent advent of free data and voice offerings.
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The telecom industry’s debt has touched Rs 4.6 lakh crore, and a recent report by ICRA has warned that industry revenue will plunge by another 6 per cent in the current financial year due to competition and pricing pressure. An inter-ministerial group has been constituted to consider measures to mitigate the industry’s financial stress. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular as well as other telcos have been making a strong pitch before the IMG for reduction in levies (like licence fee, spectrum usage charge) and are also seeking an extension in the deferred payment liability for radiowaves.
Jio, on the other hand, has ascribed the financial stress in the telecom sector to existing operators like Airtel and Idea running businesses on debt and investing heavily in unrelated sectors. Jio has also alleged that the incumbent operators had been reluctant in infusing equity and hence the financial stress is their own creation — a charge the incumbent operators have outrightly rejected.