Amid growing anticipation of relief measures for the telecom sector, industry body BIF has urged the government to consider the satcom segment too as part of any such package being proposed, as satellite communication is an integral part of digital communications.
BIF said doing so would facilitate equal and proportionate growth and ensure level playing field for all technologies that are playing a key role in realising ‘Digital India’ goals of proliferation of digital and internet services in urban and rural areas.
“…it is…requested that the satcom sector may also kindly be considered as part of this proposed relief package being mooted for the telecom sector,” Broadband India Forum (BIF) said in a letter to Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash.
In the letter sent on Monday, BIF President T V Ramachandran also suggested measures such as increase in the payment period for AGR (Adjusted Gross Revenue) dues, reduction in interest burden on instalments of AGR payments by half to 4 per cent, and cut in Spectrum Usage Charges (SUC) for VSAT Services from 4 per cent to 1 per cent.
BIF has also sought reduction in the USOF component of licence fee (LF) from 5 per cent to 3 per cent, and in turn, a uniform licence fee of 6 per cent to be levied instead of 8 per cent.
Batting for a firm policy on administrative assignment of satellite spectrum, BIF noted that “presently, the assignment of satellite spectrum is done on an adhoc basis, with the approval of the Minister of Communications”.
“This creates an aura of extreme uncertainty, and impacts business continuity and investor confidence in the sector,” the think tank said, adding that such spectrum assignments need to be regularised by a policy.
Other proposals include implementation of a single window approval mechanism for all satellite approvals, and better dispute resolution mechanism alongwith announcement of periodic amnesty schemes to settle AGR-related disputes.
“Court litigations are unproductive for all, and hence, alternate mechanisms may kindly be explored to settle disputes amicably and provide amnesty schemes for the same,” BIF said.
BIF has also highlighted that assigning or authorisng only spot frequencies and not the spectrum band per se, creates a huge amount of overhead and delays in the process of the space segment being put to use and the VSAT service providers meeting the expectations of customers in terms of quick rollouts.
“We earnestly hope that our above submission will merit your kind consideration while finalising the relief package for the sector as satcom is essentially a part of the Digital Communications ecosystem,” BIF said.
The pitch that satcom should be included in any relief package for digital communications comes in the backdrop of rising expectations of a policy pill for the telecom sector.
Ailing telecom operator Vodafone Idea has flagged the industry’s “unsustainable financial duress” in its latest annual report and hoped that the government would provide the necessary support to address “all structural issues” faced by the sector.
Voda Idea — which is facing an existential crisis amid mounting losses and rising debt — has expressed hope that the government will support efforts to generate reasonable returns on massive investments. PTI