Not an Idle Dream!

In or­der to make In­dian tele­com a suc­cess, we need to iden­tify the key ar­eas for in­no­va­tion and a reser­voir of tal­ent to spear­head the move­ment


The tele­com in­dus­try, along with aero­nau­tics and space sec­tors, de­ploys some of the most-ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies in the world. Hith­erto in In­dia, the em­pha­sis has al­ways been on the growth of tele­com ser­vice sec­tor, ie, the tele­den­sity and we have out­num­bered all es­ti­mates & pro­jec­tions by the gov­ern­ment and the in­dus­try. Over­all, it’s good to see a cer­tain amount of mo­men­tum be­hind the cause of tele­com man­u­fac­tur­ing. Un­der these cir­cum­stances, it be­comes im­por­tant to set a di­rec­tion to this cause, so that the mo­men­tum gath­ered is not wasted and the move­ment is not writ­ten off as an idle dream.

In or­der to make the dream a suc­cess, we first need to iden­tify what will not work or has not worked. At present, tele­com equip­ment be­ing pumped into the In­dian tele­com net­work is largely im­ported. Once we have the equip­ment, the in­stal­la­tion is by and large a rou­tine job car­ried out by the lo­cal out­fits of multi­na­tional ven­dors or as­so­ciates/con­trac­tors. There is hardly any gain of knowl­edge by this process. Last but not the least, all op­er­a­tors have now opted for a Man­aged Ser­vices model, al­beit out­sourced to the sub­sidiary com­pa­nies of equip­ment sup­pli­ers. As a re­sult, we are not gain­ing any­thing on the tech­no­log­i­cal front or de­vel­op­ing any mean­ing­ful ex­per­tise or man­u­fac­tur­ing base.

An in­cre­men­tal ap­proach that fo­cuses on push­ing the en­ve­lope be­yond the ex­ist­ing com­pe­ten­cies is bound to fail, as it will not change the fun­da­men­tal bal­ance of power be­tween the cur­rent equip­ment ven­dors and our in­dus­try.

Mar­ket Sig­nals: Un­cer­tain Out­comes

Re­ly­ing on mar­ket sig­nals alone is also fraught with un­cer­tain out­comes. Rais­ing tar­iffs on im­ported equip­ment can be part of an over­all strat­egy, but can­not be the main thrust. While econ­o­mists pre­fer mar­ket based in­ter­ven­tions, the tar­iff rates that will turn the ta­bles in fa­vor of do­mes­tic man­u­fac­tur­ing may not be amenable to an ac­cu­rate es­ti­ma­tion.

It’s im­por­tant to have a long-term tech­nol­ogy vi­sion and plan to align do­mes­tic R&D and man­u­fac­tur­ing. How­ever this can­not be at the ex­pense of main­stream­ing do­mes­tic man­u­fac­tur­ing im­me­di­ately with the sys­tems cur­rently in use.

Ar­eas of Con­cen­tra­tion

Over­all, the main thrust of the ap­proach must in­volve look­ing at the in­ter­sec­tion be­tween the cur­rent mar­ket de­mand and do­mes­tic

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