Since 2005, LIRNEasia has been critical of the very high amount (5%) charged from Indian telecom consumers through the operators and then left unspent in government accounts (approx. USD 4 billion at last count). Our criticisms were presented in multiple forms including a book chapter. We made them known to the leadership of the Department of Telecommunications in face-to-face conversations. Most recently, I discussed the harm caused by taxing poor people to purportedly serve poor people and then keeping the money unspent at a UNCTAD meeting on trade and regulation.
The Business Standard, 27 January 2009 The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with state-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to provide wireless broadband in rural areas. Under the MoU, BSNL will provide wireless broadband at 29,000 rural exchanges throughout the country. Each exchange will have 31 connections along with one kiosk for public use. A DoT official said, “Out of these 31 connections, 6 will be used by institutions like schools, while the rest will be for individual users.” The implementation of the entire project is expected to be completed by 2011.
Existing telecom operators may have to pay more than the new players eyeing the 3G space, in the form of annual charge for the 3G spectrum. A committee chaired by Department of Telecommunications (DoT) Joint Secretary J S Deepak has recommended that an operator having 2G spectrum and 5 MHz of 3G spectrum should pay an incremental 1 per cent more than the applicable slab rate for 2G spectrum. The committee, which was set up to suggest annual spectrum charges for 3G, has recommended that due to the efficiency in capital expenditure and synergy in operations, operators having 2G spectrum and acquiring 5 Mhz of 3G spectrum should be charged at a higher rate. GSM 2G operators get 4.4 MHz and CDMA players get 2.
The Aspen Institute has published a report entitled, ‘m-Powering India: Mobile Communications for Inclusive Growth’ co-authored by Mahesh Uppal and Richard P. Adler, which documents the discussions from the Aspen Institute India/ C & S Joint Roundtable on Communication Policy held in Kovalam, India in February, 2008. LIRNEasia’s Executive Director, Rohan Samarajiva, participated at the event, which brought together senior representatives from the telecommunications industry, government and academia. The objective of the meeting was to develop policy proposals that would contribute to the development of low-cost and high-quality telecom infrastructure needed to facilitate seamless transactions of mobile commerce. A summary of the main recommendation (as documented in the report) is given below.
New Delhi: The Indian government is set to begin here Monday the process to e-auction radio frequencies for telecom operators to start third-generation (3G) mobile services across the country and fetch the exchequer over Rs 40000 crore ($10 billion). The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will hold a pre-bid conference here with all the potential consultants – one of whom would oversee the process to e-auction spectrum for next generation mobile applications, officials said. Read the full story in ‘sify.com’ here.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to review termination charges, a major component of telecom bills. The charges are paid by the operator, from whose network the call is made, to the operator on whose network the call terminates. The DoT has asked TRAI to review these charges on a priority basis so that consumers benefit at the earliest. “Given that the central aim of the telecom policy is to provide services at affordable rates, it is suggested that a review of mobile termination charges, based on present and projected costs and traffic, be undertaken by TRAI in a time-bound manner,” the DoT said in a letter to the regulator. In 2003, Trai had recommended a termination charge of 30 paise per minute.
In a major development, the Ministry of Communications & IT has cleared applications of nine telecom aspirants and is close to issuing them Letters of Intent (LoIs). This will be followed by issuance of universal access service (UAS) licences and allocation of spectrum. The LoIs will be issued during the week, if not tomorrow. However, the allocation of spectrum would take some time as the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) was finalising the amount of vacant spectrum, sources close to the development said. The proposals of the new applicants were pending with the telecom ministry after the DoT’s approval last month.
Click on the links to see the full articles covering LIRNEasia’s book, ICT Infrastructure in Emerging Asia: Policy and Regulatory Roadblocks. ‘BSNL’s monopoly over infrastructure a hindrance to growth’ – Financial Express (India) Rural connectivity is now the focus of every telecommunication player in the country. Almost all stakeholders, from handset manufacturers to service providers, believe that the next wave of growth is in the rural areas.”However, India’s roll out (of telecom services) in rural areas has been slow. BSNL has the backbone infrastructure but is not yet ready to share it with private players,” he added.
LIRNEasia’s first book, ICT Infrastructure in Emerging Asia: Policy and Regulatory Roadblocks, edited by Rohan Samarajiva and Ayesha Zainudeen will be launched on December 16 2007. The Chief guests at the event will be Shri K.Sridhara, Member (Technology) & Ex-Officio Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications & IT, and Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala, Professor of the Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Madras. The book looks at the policy and regulatory barriers to the expansion of information and communication technology infrastructure in emerging markets, based on Asian experience and is co-published by SAGE Publications and the International Development Research Centre.
LIRNEasia research on Telecom Regulatory Environment (where India gets the lowest scores on the USO dimension) shows that Indian USO policy and implementation are flawed. LIRNEasia research on teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid shows clearly that lowering connection charges and keeping the use charges low are critically important in connecting the next billion. The policy recommendation that flows from this, made at meeting of regulators in New Delhi on the 15th of July, is that the USO levy should be phased out and the existing funds be disbursed as quickly as possible. But it appears that the Department of Telecommunications and the new Minister think otherwise: The Hindu Business Line : Raja rejects telecom industry plea to cut USO levy Operators had said that since the USO fund has over Rs 10,000 crore lying unused, the Government should consider lowering the contribution made by the telecom firms. “We realise that USO is an important tool to enable telecom services in rural areas.
May 26, 2005 (Economic Times via NewsEdge) India’s Ministry of Finance has asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to allocate a 3G spectrum to mobile operators through the auction route. According to the ministry, it is DoT’s responsibility to price spectrum as per international practices, citing the example of Europe and the US, where governments fetched billions of dollars in revenue by auctioning spectrum. The ministry has also said that pricing of spectrum should not be in TRAI’s domain. The finance ministry has taken the position that pricing of radio spectrum is not a regulatory issue, and hence, should not have been referred to the telecom regulator. Instead, it has argued that receipts from radio spectrum should accrue to the government as non-tax revenue.