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`Telecom package will spur growth'

Our Bureau

New Delhi , Dec. 24

THE Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and the Association of Basic Telecom Operators (ABTO) have welcomed the financial relief package announced by Union Communications Minister, Mr Arun Shourie. It would lead a faster growth of the sector, they said.

According to Mr Sunil Mittal, Chairman and Managing Director, Bharti, ``The cellular industry is delighted at Mr Shourie's announcement and given the current scenario, it will not be long before we overtake China to become the leader in the mobile sector. Telecom is the poster-child of reforms in the country and with the measures that have been announced it will continue to grow at the scorching pace that we have seen over the past one year.''

He noted that the reduction in the licence fees is likely to result in lower tariffs for the subscribers. The mobile tariffs are already the lowest in the world, and the additional revenues that will be at the disposal of the cellular companies from next year will be passed on as benefits to customers.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Mr Ashim Ghosh, MD, Hutch, and Mr Vikram Mehmi, CEO, Idea Cellular. They noted that form now, litigations would be thing of the past and operators can concentrate and building up their subscriber base by attracting customers with better services.

Mr Dilip Modi, Chairman, COAI, said that the Government had shown a positive attitude by opening a dialogue with the cellular operators on the financial package. The measures that have been announced are a step in the right direction and will further growth in the sector, he said.

He admitted that a member of the asociation had opposed the decision to withdraw the petition in the Supreme Court, but an "overwhelming" majority favoured the move. He declined to disclose who the operator was.

However, according to industry sources, Aircel Ltd, which offers mobile services in Tamil Nadu circle, wanted to continue with the litigation against WLL.

Mr S.C. Khanna, Secretary General, ABTO, too welcomed the measures but added that the additional rebate of two per cent that had been granted to first and second GSM operators in the circles had tilted the balance away from CDMA operators.

``If one is talking about a level playing field, then the benefits should be equal for both cellular and basic operators. Penalty and additional licence fee were levied on basic operators while migrating to unified licence regime to bring about a level playing field. Now, TRAI has also recommended change in numbering to complete the process of ensuring the level playing field. Additional benefits given to one side would again tilt the field against basic operators,'' he said.

Mr Khanna hastened to add that there was no question of going to court on the issue. Now that the cellular operators had withdrawn its litigation, there would be faster growth in the sector, he said.

"We welcome the decision of COAI and will not be stumbling blocks in the progress of the sector," he said.

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