COAI Seeks Tech Parity, Lower Levies to Improve Telcos’ Financials
Mumbai: The new telecom policy in the works should ensure equal treatment for competing technologies, an advance yearly road map for spectrum auctions and reduced levies to improve the industry’s health, the Cellular Operators’ Association of India said.
The association’s 11-point proposal to the Department of Telecommunications highlighted that current licensing rules under an 1885 act are outdated and need to be overhauled to include new concepts such as net neutrality, cloud services and Internet of Things and keep pace with changes in technology.
“WhatsApp cannot offer free services while we are charged. The government should also establish how much of a spectrum band should be used in the next 3-5 years, keeping in mind the rise in consumer demand,” COAI Director General Rajan Mathews told ET.
The sector’s financial health can be improved if spectrum usage charges are reduced to 1% from 1-5% currently and the licence fee is decreased to 3% from 8%, he said. Payment for spectrum should be allowed to match the 20 year usage period and interest rates for deferred payments for airwaves should be cut, the association suggested. The telecom industry is saddled with debt of more than .₹ 5 lakh crore.
COAI proposed international harmonisation of spectrum, which would enable consumers and equipment makers to use the same band globally. For this, the DoT would need to approach the International Telecommunication Union, the UN agency that aligns spectrum bands across the globe. The sector needs to make broadband available to 70% of the population by 2020 from less than a third currently and increase the speeds to 100 Mbps. COAI suggested the government form working groups.
The operators want the government to maintain technology neutrality and create a platform that allows licensed providers to adopt new technologies like machine to machine (M2M) and 5G. Network security while minimising compliance and cost burden and the privacy of citizens in times of digital revolution were also part of the proposal.