Apropos your lead editorial “Redialling reform” (May 18), the very title says it all: how critical it is to “drag the telecom sector out of its current swamp”, as you beautifully sum up the issue in the concluding paragraph. It just has to be done; period.
To say that “the draft National Digital Communications Policy lays out an ambitious vision” is an understatement. It sounds more like a dream; but then, to achieve big goals one has to dream big. The targets that have been set cover all domains within the sector and if we can translate these into reality by 2022 we would have set an enviable implementation record for all ministries to emulate.
Looking at the ground realities of actual achievement vis-a-vis the goals set forth in the “far-sighted 2012 Telecom Policy” one thing is crystal clear: the ball is in the government’s court. The main villains of the piece are clearly (a) spectrum release optimisation and its pricing and (b) the snail’s pace movement of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) recommendations. I don’t think the government can -- or should -- do much to end the “price war” in the sector. We are committed to a "market economy model of growth" and can’t stop someone from offering lower prices. Don’t the Amazons and Alibabas of the world do that all the time? To that end, we can’t even ban the entry of new players; yes we must absolutely make sure that there is a level playing field for all — new and old.
Public private partnerships (PPPs) are, of course, necessary to get in the additional 100 billion dollars of investment, but having said that, there must be clear ground rules to make PPPs a success. Let the government confine its ambit to (a) rational spectrum release, allocation and pricing; (b) provision of land required for towers, laying of fibre optics and other infrastructure; (c) data security etc, giving a free hand to the private operators to handle all operational and pricing issues. They are all — Indian and foreign — a mature lot by now and, in any case, we have an excellent regulatory mechanism in Trai. God willing, we will succeed in realising our dreams.
Krishan Kalra Gurugram
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