As India’s telecom sector is undergoing a huge financial crisis, the NDA government has set up an inter-ministerial group to come up with a solution. In an interview with Hindustan Times, Union telecom minister Manoj Sinha says that the government will not do anything that will burden the consumers. Excerpts:
The telecom sector, once a success story, is bleeding today. What do you think is the reason for it and how are you planning to address it?
It’s not happening for the first time. A similar situation had come up in 2003 due to new entrants, which created
some turmoil, but it gradually settled down. The current situation will also become stable in 4-6 months. The
government has formed an inter-ministerial group that had its last meeting on May 25. All the stakeholders have been consulted. The IMG’s recommendation is expected shortly. Telecom sector in India has been a success story and the government will ensure that it remains so.
A part of the blame for the current crisis is attributed to the high prices of spectrum. Do you subscribe to it?
Some people do believe it but the companies were earlier making huge profits with the same spectrum price. This logic does not stand ground.
There is uncertainty about how this crisis will affect the consumers...
The government will not do anything that will burden the consumers adversely. Consumers are our top priority. But we will also ensure that telecom service providers also survive. It will not be appropriate for me to comment any further on this before the inter-ministerial group submits its recommendations.
You are coming out with a new telecom policy. What’s your objective?
Last time when the telecom policy was formulated, it was to address different needs. It was more of a connectivity-driven policy. But now with the advent of hordes of applications or digital apps, we need an application-driven policy. These days, consumers are widely using the applications in addition to the voice calling. Data consumption has shot up in our country and we have superseded US and China.
In the first quarter, there was 500 million GB consumption, which has surged to around 3,000 million GB in the fourth quarter of the current fiscal. It is wise to change policies to keep pace with the fast-changing technology. Digital literacy and local language contents are the need of the hour and the ministry is working on that. The amount of enormous data consumption was never anticipated while formulating the current policy. Before we finalise the new telecom policy, we will have wide-ranging consultations with all stakeholders. For our government, the consumer is and will be the king. The policy is likely to be ready by next year.
The issue of call drops has been an area of concern. What have you done to address it?
Constant monitoring ensures and improves quality in calling. Call drop was a major issue earlier, but it is not so any more. I don’t claim that the quality of calls is very good everywhere but it has improved a lot, comparatively. BSNL and private telecom service providers have set up more than 2.5 lakh BTS (Base transceiver station) in the last 10 months. Even a TRAI report has acknowledged an improvement in the quality of calls. – The Hindustan Times