India’s telecom market has the potential to attract new players now that the government has undertaken significant reforms for improving the financial health of the sector, said communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, at the Mint Mobility Conclave 2022 on Thursday.
He argued that India’s billion plus population offered a huge captive market while the per month data consumption of 15 GB was higher than the global average of 11 GB, indicating a strong appetite for technology adoption and usage.
“So, there is a scope for new innovation, business models, technology and new players,” he said.
The Indian telecom industry has shrunk from more than a dozen players about a decade ago to three private players – Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea – besides public sector units BSNL and MTNL. Adani Data Networks, an arm of the Adani Enterprises conglomerate, is participating in the ongoing 5G spectrum auctions, even as it is learnt to have taken airwaves only for captive 5G networks and enterprise use.
With the auctions moving into the third day the minister expected higher proceeds from the previous day of Rs 1.49 trillion. “We have to more than this,” he said, but added that the auctions revealed that the industry had come out of the financial pains that it was going through in the past.
“From a very stressed out industry it has now become a sunrise industry,” he said. He added that taking telecom services to the far-flung areas would be possible only when the industry was strong, healthy, willing to invest more and bring in new technologies.
He also noted that the government was working on redesigning the sector’s regulatory structure to make it the best in the world.
Vaishnaw said that the law must keep pace with the technology development while seeking views from all stakeholders on the proposed new legal framework for the telecom sector. The department of telecommunications floated a consultation paper last week.
“The new law will have to be very clearly drafted, easily understood, seamlessly integrated with what we have future ready, not a cumbersome law,” He added that the government had created a large team to go through all the suggestions that the industry would provide during the consultation process.
The minister also added that the semiconductor and display manufacturing program was gaining pace with applicants having visited various sites, finalized their investment plans and decided the locations within eight months of the program being announced in December last year.
Groundbreaking of the first plant expected by the end of the year, he said in response to a question. “It is possible... We were expecting the first agreement to be signed in 12-14 months, but we should be able to do it much sooner,” he said. The government had received five proposals worth $20 billion earlier this year.
He added that many state governments put their policies in place for attracting investments in the sector.