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Making telcos pay for everything is a perverse idea: TRAI chairman

RS Sharma, chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), on Wednesday said making telecom service providers pay for everything is a perverse idea, stressing that such services and related infrastructure must be treated on a par with essentials such as water and electricity.

“The telecom infra must become as essential as water pipes, electricity or the television infrastructure… However, when it comes to telecom, you start charging money from telecom service providers, which is so perverse I must say,” said Sharma while addressing the Connecting Bharat digital conference organised by the Broadband India Forum.

Last month, Bharti Airtel Ltd chairman Sunil Mittal had urged the Centre to review taxes levied on telecom firms, including spectrum usage charges and license fee, saying such resources should not become a source of income for the exchequer.

Separately, industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has sought a 3% reduction in spectrum charges for all service providers and a cut in license fee to 3% from 8%.

Sharma added that the country needs to ramp up its broadband infrastructure as wireless networks still have issues of “reliability and continuity”. The government should use cable television networks to build broadband infrastructure, he said

“State governments need to have single-window clearances. I think states need to be brought on board to understand that telecom is such an important and essential infrastructure. I have been promoting this, probably it should happen soon,” Sharma said.

Data consumption has soared due to the covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns, which has also revealed the gaps in services and challenges in connectivity, he said, adding that the Centre is paving the way to implement 5G technology that will help fulfil the rising demand for data. Live Mint

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