COAI Seeks Tech Par­ity, Lower Levies to Im­prove Tel­cos’ Fi­nan­cials

The Economic Times - - Companies & Economy - Dev­ina.Sen­gupta@ times­group.com

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.

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