Consolidation in the Telecom Sector Not a Cause for Concern: Manoj Sinha

Manoj Sinha, telecom minister, has confided in the public that no more telecom operators will lose out to the increasing competition in the industry. Also, he said that the concerns rising after the consolidation in the sector need to be dispelled. The telecom minister highlighted that even in developed countries, there are three to four players which also seems to be the case in India. Talking about government intervention in the sector, the minister said that it wouldn’t be a prudent step on the centre’s behalf.

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Telecom Industry Not a Source of Revenue for the Government

Manoj Sinha said that the telecom sector is not a source of revenue for the government and there is a need of stabilisation in the industry. He said, “We certainly don’t view telecom sector as a revenue generator but as an overall facilitator for the country’s growth and the levies, including the USOF, need to be reviewed in that light. AGR (adjusted gross revenue) needs to be rationally defined, we need to keep the sector strong.” The minister further added that even though development has happened in a rapid manner, there is a substantial need for USOF especially in areas like the North East and Andaman Nicobar.

Number of Telecom Operators Will Not Reduce Further

During the interview with an ET journalist, Sinha also talked about the growing concern around the consolidation in the sector. To the speculators, he replied that the role of government gets reduced to a minimum as soon an industry like telecom is opened for private players. Sinha also waived off concerns regarding a monopolistic market. Regarding the matter, he spoke, “We don’t think the number of operators will reduce further. On the contrary, our primary concern is that the market, which has gone into the red, needs to stabilise. The revenue which is seeing a downward trend needs to revive, and businesses need to become profitable. We want this to happen as soon as possible.”

DoT to Determine 5G Bands in the Coming Months

On being posed with questions related to 5G, the minister said that the standards for the new technology would be decided by the ITU (the United Nations agency for information and communication technologies). He also noted that DoT would determine the 5G bands in the coming months based on Arogyaswami Paulraj committee’s recommendations. Sinha also highlighted that the Telecom ministry is working in close sync with the IT ministry to resolve the issues relating to data protection and privacy.

Facebook, WhatsApp Will Work With Government

On being asked about whether or not tech giants like Facebook and WhatsApp are willing to work with the government to prevent the misuse of these platforms, Manoj Sinha said, “They have realised they cannot work without our help. The government’s stance has forced them to come and talk to us. They need to work out possible solutions that they have to offer.”

BSNL Aiming to Stay in the Market and Serve People Despite No Profitability

Lastly, the minister concluded the interview by speaking about BSNL and its financials. The minister agreed that the profitability of the state-owned telco had gone down. However, he also added that new services like internet telephony are expected to better the conditions. He remarked, “We have told BSNL that there may not be money in the mobile segment but stay in it and continue to serve people. There are positive signals like BSNL’s market share has increased, while others have seen a dip in their market share. In fibre-to-home, BhartNet’s network will be used across villages, and internet telephony will revive BSNL.”

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