The Indian telecom consumer has had a good innings. India moved from a 20-year waiting for a telephone connection to a 98 percent geographical coverage, and that too at dirt-cheap tariffs fairly rapidly. 1 GB of data costs USD 12.50 in the US, USD 6.6 in UK, and just USD 0.13 in India.
The service providers have in place world-class infrastructure, backed by an equally enviable towers, cables, and T&M framework. The recent pandemic, when the cellular traffic increased between 13 and 30 percent and the daily data consumption to 300 petabytes reinforced this fact. India is able to hold its head high and has the attention of the superpowers partly because of the telecom sector having outscored its own performance and for the force multiplier effect it has on other sectors.
The industry has had its share of adversities. At an estimated investment of USD 130 billion, the debt-laden telcos have only seen bleeding balance-sheets, inability to make timely payments to their vendors, long-drawn legal battles on multiple fronts, and taxes to the tune of 30 percent; these are only a few of the glaring ones.
In an attempt that the economy’s momentum accelerates, the operators have not lost their spirit yet. When asked to shed the 5G blueprints, they had prepared over months, they did not hesitate once, and volunteered to drop the cost-competitive, technology savvy, Chinese suppliers, and move toward a duopolistic vendor situation as that is what the country demanded of them. On each and every platform, each senior spokesperson has gone out of his way to appeal to the powers that be, that their industry be allowed to play its role as an economic and social enabler and bear in mind the anticipated 5G-enabled digitization revenues of USD 17 billion by the end of 2030. It is only very recently, that they have sought the understanding of the government and regulator, that their industry no longer be treated as a source for the exchequer, but a sector which other businesses can ride on and contribute to the coffers.
Does the telecom industry not deserve a fair hearing?