As the Mobile World Congress 2017 progressed in Barcelona, India came into the limelight. Reliance Jio announced its target to be the fifth-largest operator in the world, an extension of its partnership with Samsung for plans to bring 5G services into India, and enhance LTE network in rural areas to take coverage to 90 percent of the population by the end of the year.
Sunil Bharti Mittal in his keynote address pledged to up the struggling reputation index of the USD 2.25 trillion CapEx mobile services industry. In spite of the mobile operators coming to the rescue and doing a yeoman service to emergencies as refugee crisis and disaster relief, the industry is not regarded as one which serves the vital needs of the future.
Mittal suggested four agendas to fix the fundamental issues. He declared a war on roaming, and said that during his term at GSMA he would try his level best that roaming charges be a thing of the past, and the beginning is being made by his own company, Bharti Enterprises, present in 17 countries across the world.
Every operator is building its own network. There is a need to create netcos (network operating companies). Passive infrastructure as subsea cables is now in consortiums, and tower companies are a norm. Co-build of fiber on the terrestrial side has also started to happen. Active sharing of infrastructure in the form of a full netco needs to be put in place, no matter how huge the challenge. This would lower the cost of the networks dramatically.
Consolidation must be allowed by the regulators, and a few sustainable, solid operators encouraged to make the requisite investment as the need arises, offer desired data speed, and roll out the latest technology.
The hand of the exchequer is still very heavy on the industry. The spectrum is still very expensive and taxes, duties, and the USO Fund obligation load the industry by 30–45 percent, depending on which part of the world we are in. It is time the government uses the industry as a means and not as an end.