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Telcos urge govt to prioritise 5G, ease telecom regulations at IMC 2021

Telcos urge govt to prioritise 5G, ease telecom regulations at IMC 2021
Photo Credit: Pixabay
8 Dec, 2021

Heads of India’s telecom companies have urged the government to prioritise transition to the newest generation of 5G connectivity generation, while focusing on affordability as well as the establishment of a better regulatory environment in the telecom sector.

They were speaking at the 5th Indian Mobile Congress (IMC), 2021, on Wednesday. 

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries--the parent company of telecom operator Reliance Jio--said, “India must complete the migration from 2G to 4G to 5G at the earliest. To keep millions of Indians at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid confined to 2G is to deprive them of the benefits of the digital revolution. The rollout of 5G services should be India’s national priority.” 

Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Enterprises-- the parent company of telecom operator Bharti Airtel-- pointed out that while recent reforms of policies in the telecom sector have been beneficial, there’s still a long way to go. 

“The difficulty of the past few years has brought down the industry from about 12 telecom operators to three private operators. However, recent reforms clearly hold promise. The deferment of AGR (adjusted gross revenue) dues by four years has been of great relief. Issues such as KYC (know your customer) compliance, return of bank guarantees and streamlining import license regimes have been simplified by the government,” Mittal said. 

“However, more reforms in this sector are vital for a better future. 5G is already upon us, and we are all discussing beyond 5G, where India should be taking a leap in developing its own standards – for 6G and beyond,” he added. 

Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman of Aditya Birla Group -- which runs Vodafone Idea in partnership with Vodafone --said, “The mobile industry will be vital in achieving India’s vision to be a $5 trillion economy by 2025, of which $1 trillion will be contributed by the digital economy. The framework for achieving this has been laid down in the National Digital Communications Policy, 2018. To achieve this shift, we must collectively address the need for investments to enable the journey to 5G.” 

Read more: India’s 5G subscriber base expected to reach 500 million by 2027 

The appeal from telcos to the government is to facilitate a regulatory regime that enables a more profitable business environment.  

Touching upon this point, Minister for Communication Ashwini Vaishnaw, said, “Last September, there was a series of reforms that reduced the regulatory framework, simplified things, and brought structural and people-oriented procedural changes. The government is open to new ideas – we want a benchmark regulatory framework that leads the rest of the world.” 

Read more: Security of telecom networks is a paramount concern: IT Minister 

Ambani and Mittal both spoke about the need to ease the cost framework of telecom infrastructure in the country.  

Ambani said, “Affordability has been a critical driver of the rapid expansion of the mobile subscriber base in India. But, when we talk of affordability in the policy context, we only think of affordability of services. India needs to ensure affordability not only of services, but also of devices and applications.” 

Mittal, on the other hand, highlighted that government intervention is warranted in controlling litigations that telcos presently face, alongside specific cost areas of the industry.  

“A lot of litigation still remains – cases across courts, which are very old. We need to resolve these, new cases need to be avoided, and we must have a regime that is simple in its regulatory touch – and does not create more litigation going forward,” he said. 

“Duties in this sector are still very large, and spectrum remains very expensive – which are some areas of long-term demands of the telecom sector,” Mittal added.