Committees set up to sort issues telcos raised at India Mobile Congress


The Department of Telecom (DoT) has constituted committees to work on objectives set by National Digital Communications Policy, especially around concerns raised by service providers, a top government official said.

"We have constituted several committees. We need to enlarge some committees... to bring inter-ministerial participation for views of Department of Finance, Department of Space and Department of IT. Most of the committees have been constituted, and now we will get down to work," Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan told PTI in an interview.

She was responding to a question on the action plan of DoT to achieve targets set by the government under National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) 2018.

The NDCP, notified on October 22, proposes to address pain points of the sector by reviewing levies and fees including licence fee, spectrum usage charges and resolve long disputed definition of adjusted gross revenue on which telecom operators pay charges.

When asked about the roadmap for rationalisation of levies and spectrum prices, Sundararajan said "committees will start working immediately."

Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, at the India Mobile Congress (IMC), had said that the telecom sector remains highly taxed just like the tobacco industry.

"In India, for every Rs 100 that mobile operators earn, nearly Rs 37 goes towards one form of levy or the other," Mittal had said.

"I cannot see how this contradiction can exist...where on one hand we have PM's vision of digitally enabled India ...which requires tremendous amount of investment, on the other hand we keep the spectrum prices and our licence fee very high...and of course the GST is at 18 per cent which almost at the highest tax bracket," he had stated.

The telecom secretary said that most of the issues were expected to be resolved in a year, and for some work will have to go on till 2022 as per the target date set under NDCP.

"We do accept two things. You need lot more spectrum for 5G to happen. Second, revenue maximisation cannot be the only objective," Sundararajan said.

She said that taking concerns of telecom sector players, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has already proposed up to 46 per cent reduction in price of spectrum.

"If anything more needs to be done, then we will have to look at it after committee gives its recommendations," Sundararajan said.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Monday recommended auction of about 8,644 MHz of telecom frequencies at an estimated total base price of Rs 4.9 lakh crore, which includes radiowaves for 5G services.

Sundararajan said that telecom companies have showed huge enthusiasm for 5G services at the IMC.

"They (telecom companies) need spectrum for the trials. We will make available all global bands for trial. They need simply right of way mechanism. We will set up official mechanism to set up trials. We have also told them we do not want showcasing of what has already been done. We want something new," Sundararajan said.

Around 5,000 delegates from 20 countries and more than 300 companies participated in IMC that was held from October 25-27.

Sundararajan said that government had plans to conduct spectrum auction for 5G services in the second of 2019.

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