The telecom department is moving ahead in full stream towards ushering the next round of reforms in the sector and a committee, set up to make suggestions on licencing reforms, is expected to submit its report to the Department by the month-end, a senior official said.
Even as hectic preparations are on in the Department of Telecom (DoT) for the upcoming spectrum auctions, work on the second set of reforms is going on in parallel. Some of these reforms may be announced by the July-August timeframe. The reforms span multiple areas including licencing, wireless WPC, satellite telephony, and other areas.
A DoT committee headed by Member Technology is deliberating on the licencing terms and conditions reforms, and is expected to submit its report by the month end, following which Department of Telecom will assess which measures involve reference to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and those which can be taken forward by the Department directly, the official said.
The panel, which has been formed, is looking at various aspects of licence reforms including licencing terms and conditions, to make things simpler and easier for the licensee. The idea overall is to ensure a simpler regime with ease of doing business, lower compliance burden, as also reduction of certain unnecessary charges, and delayering of costs, said the official privy to the developments.
The second area is WPC (Wireless Planning and Coordination) reforms, which is again a procedural reform, aimed at making things simpler, cutting down the number of processes, removing some unnecessary fees, eliminating some approvals which are required.
“That also is in the final stages,” the official said, adding that ‘saral sanchar’ portal will be revamped next month to incorporate and reflect the new features and changes.
Some of the reforms in the satellite telephony space including removal of NOCC (network operation and control centre) charges and streamlining of procedures have already been announced, and some more work remains. That would also be completed by next month, the official said, observing that a lot of reforms-related decisions will be finalised around July-August.
Telecom service providers got a shot in the arm with the government, last year, approving a blockbuster relief package that included a four-year break for companies from paying statutory dues, permission to share scarce airwaves, change in the definition of revenue on which levies are paid, and 100 per cent foreign investment through the automatic route.
Following this, debt-ridden Vodafone Idea (VIL) opted for converting about Rs 16,000 crore interest dues liability payable to the government, into equity. This will result in the government holding about 33 per cent stake in the company. On the status of Vodafone Idea’s equity conversion proposal, the DoT official said that the matter is in final stages, and required approvals on the same are expected as early as 7-10 days.
As such, Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea — the three mobile players operating in the 114-crore subscribers Indian telecom market — are gearing up for launch of 5G services. The 5G services will usher in high speeds — about 10 times faster than 4G — and spawn new-age offerings and business models.
The government will auction about Rs 4.3 lakh crore worth of airwaves capable of offering fifth-generation or 5G telecom services and has also given its nod for setting up captive 5G networks by the tech firms. As much as 72 GHz of spectrum will be put on the block during the 5G auction, set to commence on July 26, 2022.
The auction will be held for spectrum in various low (600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz), mid (3300 MHz) and high (26 GHz) frequency bands