Reforms 2.0 in Works to Create Robust Telecom Companies, Says Ashwini Vaishnaw

TelecomThe government is working on the second set of reforms for the telecom sector aimed at creating strong mobile phone operators that can expand overseas while connecting the remotest corners of the country, communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told in an interview. This will follow policy changes announced two weeks ago aimed at relieving stress on the sector and helping to preserve the current market structure.

Vaishnaw, also the cabinet minister for information technology and railways, added that spectrum pricing should factor in the point about telecom services being for the “public good”. Thus, the pricing should also leave enough resources in the hands of operators to be able to invest in expanding their networks and providing quality services.

When asked whether Vodafone Idea’s promoters – the Aditya Birla Group (ABG) and UK’s Vodafone Group – had committed to further investment in the company, the minister said, “They have discussed infusion of equity into the company. However, the exact details would be announced by them as and when they finalize.”

Weighing in on a global debate, Vaishnaw said online platforms need to remunerate original creators and publishers of content “adequately” for all the intellectual property (IP) they produce. He added that the matter needed to be thoroughly analyzed.

‘Plan to Reduce Litigation in Sector’
Commenting on the next set of reforms, he said the pricing and the payment mechanism for auctions are being worked on and the measures will be announced soon. “It (spectrum) should be auctioned. But the question here is how to auction? How to work out the terms of payment?” said the minister.

The government also wants to reduce litigation in the sector and enable telecom operators to become globally competitive. “(Telecom sector) reforms will primarily aim to strengthen the industry to enable it to fight it out in India and abroad,” he said. “Why can’t we have Indian operators in the US, Europe, and other international destinations? Why should we just have international operators coming to India and not the other way round? We will do whatever is needed to keep the sector healthy.”

He added that the government wants operators to focus on networks, to be able to serve the remotest corners of the country. “That requires sufficient resources in the hands of the telecom operators,” Vaishnaw said. “For that, they need to be healthy. Today, with the current structure of the industry, it cannot happen.”

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