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Government Aims To Improve Telecom Service Quality, Start 5G Trials, says Dhotre

Newly-appointed minister of state for communications, electronics and IT Sanjay Shamrao Dhotre Thursday said that improvement in telecom service including call drops and kickstarting fifth-generation or 5G field trials in the next 2 to 3 months would be the top priority areas for the government.

“Our focus areas include telecom service quality improvement including call drops and starting 5G trials within the 2-3 months,” Dhotre told ET when asked about the priority matters for the department.

He was speaking on the sidelines of an industry event.

Poor telecom service quality leading to call drops is one of the most contentious issues between the government and the telecom industry with the former blaming incumbent telcos of not spending adequately in networks expansion. Telcos though blame hurdles in setting of up towers for call drops.

Soon after taking over, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said the government aims to start 5G technology-led field trials in next 100 days and added that the department was planning to hold airwaves sale in the current calendar year.

The Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had in 2018 asked incumbent service providers such as Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel to partner with equipment makers such as Cisco, Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson to demonstrate India-specific use cases.

The industry-government stand off started after the Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing (WPC) under the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) rejected the idea of allocating airwaves beyond the 90-day period for trials, which telcos felt would not yield any benefit as they would not be able to undertake pilot initiatives in such a short duration.

The DoT has though finally decided to award trial spectrum for a year, extendable by another.

Dhotre added that providing connectivity in 1 lakh digital villages this year would also remain a major focus area.

The government also aims to create 1 lakh villages into digital villages or ‘digi gaons’. In February, interim finance minister Piyush Goyal had announced the initiative to provide connectivity in 1 lakh villages with digital services including Wi-Fi access to provide entrepreneurship opportunities.

“We are taking the BSNL and MTNL revival plan to the Cabinet in next 2-3 months,” Dhotre added.

State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone NigamLtd (MTNL) have been asking the government to approve their revival plans to turn around the ailing public sector telcos.

The revival strategy of the two operators broadly includes voluntary retirement as well as assets monetisation scheme and allocation of 4G spectrum to enable them to compete with private sector players.—Newsfeed

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