Sunil Bharti Mittal, founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprises, on Tuesday said the upcoming telecom Bill is still a draft and one should not prejudge the same before anything is finalised.
Mittal’s comments come at a time when some industry experts and associations have expressed concerns that the Bill would empower the government with unnecessary controls such as internet shutdowns, payment waivers to telecom operators, telecom infrastructure-related permissions on private property, among others.
Among key issues, the Big Tech companies have also voiced concerns against regulations on the over-the-top (OTT) communication apps in the draft Bill.
“To my mind, every voice in the market is talking about their needs and they are lobbying for their own corners,” Mittal said at the Global Technology Summit by Carnegie India.
“The policy from the old NTP (national telecom policy) that I have worked with to where we are today has been a progressive one, taking into account not only the needs of the society, but importantly, the massive shifts in technology,” Mittal said.
As part of the public consultation process on the draft telecom Bill, the government has received about 900 comments from the stakeholders and it would soon come out with a final version.
Praising the government’s extensive consultation process, Mittal said, “You are in a democratic setup and they (government) are following the norms of inviting comments, they are deliberating upon it and you are already seeing shifts.”
“We should be very positive in looking towards the future because India is committed to a digital framework that enables the society to thrive,” he added.
However, Mittal has also been expressing concerns over the higher tax regime for the telecom sector.
The telecom industry currently has to pay 18% goods and services tax (GST) and around 12% as licence fee and spectrum usage charges.
“This (telecom) requires billions of dollars relentlessly. All I wish is that the government keeps on looking at the digital infrastructure in a more benign way,” Mittal said. “And one area where I keep on always raising my voice is that the sector is still a very heavily taxed one and this is where the government needs to focus,” he added.
Lately, the telecom operators along with the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) have been pushing for removal of GST and reduction in certain levies on the sector.
Post the implementation of telecom Bill, the government has also said that it would simplify the licensing regime for the telecom sector.
“Our next set of reforms will happen immediately after the telecom Bill is enacted. We will be significantly simplifying the licensing regime,” communications and IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had said last month.