Acknowledging that the telecom industry was under financial stress, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday said he had formed a committee to review levies, including spectrum usage charge (SUC), and promote ease of doing business. The Minister will also be meeting all the telcos ‘at the earliest’ to discuss various sectoral issues.
“The telecom sector has been undergoing stress for a long time. I propose to do two things. One, I will be holding a meeting with all the telcos very soon. Second, I have constituted a committee to look into the entire issue of removing ambiguities in ease of doing business. It will also revisit the whole issue of SUC,” he said.
He added that the committee, to be headed by Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan, would submit its report in two weeks’ time. “If there are issues which require clarity, I’ve also directed the committee to seek views of the Solicitor General,” he added. The committee would also look into previous recommendations by sectoral regulator TRAI on the issue, as well. The reduction of levies and fees, including licence fee, SUC and universal service levy, has been a long-standing demand of the industry, along with review of the definition of aggregated gross revenue.
“I have noticed some consolidation in the sector. That was a natural process [of how the market works]. But my government will ensure that this competition is fair,” he added. Further, the Minister said that he was looking into the revival plan for state-owned BSNL and MTNL on priority. “We will be making a very focused attempt for the revival of BSNL and MTNL. Very soon, we’ll be moving a Cabinet note in that direction. The details for that are being worked out,” he said.
“Therefore, the revival package is being worked out and we will ensure that there is least pressure of the government. I appeal to the employees BSNL and MTNL to be competitive and professional and learn to live in today’s competitive world. Our government supports competition,” he said.
The Minister hinted that the government would look at offering the two PSUs more spectrum. While he did not answer questions on Huawei, Mr. Prasad said he was ‘excited’ about opportunities that 5G technology would bring in and that the government planned to involve start-ups and software giants to work on India-specific 5G use cases.
Mr. Prasad said another area where he would focus efforts was making India an export hub for electronics.