Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash asks industry to boost rural connectivity

Telecom services have grown in leaps and bounds becoming "a basic requirement in list of essentials" but the path ahead is fraught with "challenges" for the industry, which is capital-intensive and requires continuous investments, Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash said on Friday.

Prakash asked the industry to rise to the challenges of improving connectivity in rural areas, which has shown "huge appetite for data".

He exhorted the industry to drive a larger mesh of wireline communications and wireline broadband, enhance tower density and fiberisation, and aid the proliferation of fibre-to-the-home connections.

Prakash said India needs to prepare, invest and be ready for reaping the benefits of 5G technology opportunities and applications across sectors including including health, education, agriculture, disaster management, industry, and commerce.

He said mobile phones have become vital and central in people's lives, and added that from being an alternative to fixedline voice communication, mobile phones have now become backbone of e-governance, e-commerce and value-added services.

"While we have every reason to be proud of our success, we must also realise that the period ahead is full of challenges.

"Telecom is capital-intensive and requires continuous investment in maintanance and renewal of networks, as also for adoption of new technology. This, in turn, entails capital infusion," Prakash said speaking at an event organised by industry body Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI).

India also requires larger network of wireline communication and wireline broadband, he said. "The tower density has to be majorly enhanced. Fiber used per capita must increase. Towers need to be fiberised, and fibre-to-the-home connections and internet leased line communications should proliferate," he said.

Noting that rural areas have shown a huge appetite for data communications, the telecom secretary said such locations require better telecom connectivity.

"There should not be, and cannot be digital divide between regions, urban and rural areas and between haves and have nots. The right of way issues require resolution," he asserted.

Reforms in telecom policy will have an impact for the industry, he said noting that the telecom policy evolved from 1994, 1999, 2012 and 2018, right to the national digital communications policy which is "futuristic".

"Concerted efforts are a must to achieve the goals and objectives of this policy.

"Provision of broadband for all, enhancing contribution of digital communications in GDP and employment, increasing our ranking in global ICT (information and communication technologies) development index are some of the challenges we need to address," he said.

He expressed confidence that active efforts of stakeholders will ensure that the telecom sector in India emerges stronger and meets expectation and aspirations of propelling India to a higher trajectory of growth.

"Mobiles today are, without doubt, a necessity, they are basic requirement in list of essentials. Water, food, fresh air, followed access to and availability of mobile phones and smartphone coverage," he said.

He added that internet and broadband revolution rides on telecom network, and smartphones are our link to the world.

Speaking on the occasion, COAI Director General S P Kochhar said that while the last 25 years have about connecting India, the next 25 would be all about transforming the country.

"The telecom sector is in the hot seat. When you are tasked with keeping a billion Indians connected through good and bad times, you have to be infallible, resilient and a problem solver....industry players have played a very crucial role in this period," he said.

He added that the past 25 years have been busy in connecting India and the next 25 years would be about transforming India.


(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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