Airtel, Idea say telecom sector is suffering, intervention necessary
On Wednesday, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Communications, Manoj Sinha inaugurated the maiden India Mobile Congress (IMC) at Delhi's Pragati Maidan. On the first day, telecom majors Airtel and Idea Cellular took the stage to express their displeasure regarding Centre's stance towards the financially strained telecom sector. They argued that the 'Digital India' vision will remain unfulfilled if immediate relief isn't provided. Here's more.
High levies, regulations and the steep spectrum cost are pushing the telecom sector in a sorry state. Airtel MD Gopal Vittal quipped, "Taxation on the industry is very high. It is in the range of 29-32%. Spectrum cost is one of the highest and tariff is one of the lowest. All of this need to change to realize dream and vision of Digital India."
Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said that the government and responsible ministry should take an active interest in the telecom sector and solve its issues. He said, "For instance, government buildings have been opened up for telecom towers but in reality, it's still a slow process. We need to get local governments and municipalities on the same page with the Digital India vision."
Idea Cellular MD Himanshu Kapania, distraught by IUC charge rejig, said, "The government has to decide if it wants more telecom technologies to proliferate or just one." He further said, "The TRAI's recent decision is pushing the industry to just one option. The telecom ministry needs to intervene urgently." Needless to say, "just one" in his speech pointed towards Mukhesh Ambani's Jio which benefited the most.
Kapania rang the warning bell by saying, "The elephant in the room is that no industry can survive with mobile voice tariffs halving within a year and data tariffs falling so sharply. This is causing financial and mental stress in the sector which has already seen a 2% de-growth last year." He too pressed on telecom ministry's intervention and relief for the sector.
Reliance Jio Head Mukesh Ambani said the Indian mobile industry's growth is unparalleled in the world and "data is the new oil and India does not need to import it." However, the irony/satire came from the Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Dharmendra Pradhan. He said, "Today, because of the healthy competition between Mr. Mittal and Mr. Ambani, we are getting free talk time."