Report on telecom stress likely in 20 days

The inter-ministerial group (IMG) looking into the financial stress in the telecom sector is likely to give a report in 20 days, says minister Manoj Sinha.

This is to be placed before the Telecom Commission, highest decision-making body of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

According to sources, the IMG's draft report is ready. Extending the deferred payment schedule to 16 years, a cut in interest rates and converting the PLR (prime lending rate) into the MCLR (marginal cost of funds-based lending rate) are among the measures being considered.

The stress in the sector intensified after Reliance Jio launched last September, with deep discounts and free services. The combined debt in the industry is pegged at Rs 4.5 lakh crore, incurred mainly on account of payments for spectrum.

Regarding the new telecom policy, DoT secretary Aruna Sundararajan said after discussion with stakeholders, working groups would be set up this week. These would look at multiple aspects, such as ease of doing business and new technologies.

"The new policy is part of a much larger vision that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has articulated for India...India is attempting to do nothing short of charting a new digital strategy for growth," she said during a business event here.

The telecom sector contributes 6.5 per cent to the country's gross domestic product. She said the Bharat Net project had already taken connectivity to 100,000 villages and hoped service delivery on the platform would start in those gram panchayats by the year-end.

"We see the telecom policy as part of the continuum of ease of doing business, of building digital India and achieving the larger vision of a prosperous India," said Sundararajan.