As the Indian telecom industry continues its roller coaster ride, it currently stresses over two major issues.
It worries if the telecom regulator will agree to drop its proposal to phase out interconnect usage charge and appreciate that the existing rate of 14 paisa is already below cost. In the backdrop that the industry was looking for the IUC to be raised to about 35 paise, if its appeal is not heeded, it could well go for a toss.
While the new telecom policy is being formulated, the industry is fervently looking for it to be progressive, one which provides a level playing field, ensuring equal policies for competing technologies; lays down a clear, long-term roadmap for spectrum auction, including for 5G; addresses systemic issues affecting viability and repayment capacity of the telecom sector, furnishing recommendations for resolution of stressed assets; and ensures regulatory predictability and consistency. Only when the investment of the service providers is protected and financial health nurtured will there be revenue growth, will contractual commitments be honored, and will spectrum auctions be a success.
As the current decade of mobility and data make way for the next one of virtuality, communication technologies will evolve to meet needs and requirements. Concepts like IoT and M2M communications will become more pervasive. Telecom service providers will transform themselves and provide services across sectors including banking and finance for digital payments, education, and healthcare, to name a few. And this will only happen when the telecom sector has the space and capital to evolve and expand. Procurement and installation of equipment will be needed to start providing the next evolution of technology. More and more requirements will arise, and needs to be fulfilled.
Mobile connectivity and data services in India have played a pivotal role in bridging the digital divide. The telecom industry deserves an urgent and immediate intervention to encourage policy and regulatory stability. It seems the inter-ministerial group set up to suggest measures to ease the financial stress in the telecom sector might just have the answer!