Info-tech

Spectrum trading policy by early July: Prasad

S RONENDRA SINGH DEBABRATA DAS New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on June 21, 2015

Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister for Communications & IT, at `Breakfast with BL', in New Delhi on Saturday. - KAMAL NARANG

Breakfast with BL.eps

Minister for Telecom & IT says most of the spectrum must be made available at one go





After successfully concluding spectrum auctions, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister for Communications and Information Technology, is now set to put in place a spectrum sharing and trading mechanism.

“It (the policy) will be as early as you can think,” Prasad said. “The Telecom Commission has finalised it. We will make a Cabinet note… have some inter-ministerial consultations. I think by the month end or early July we should be able to take it to the Cabinet.”

Prasad was speaking at ‘Breakfast with BusinessLine’, at the ITC Maurya hotel on June 20, an event that serves as a platform for an exchange of ideas between the corporate elite and people of eminence. The discussion was led and moderated by BusinessLine Editor Mukund Padmanabhan.

Prasad acknowledged that the spectrum auction was his biggest test, while his toughest challenge was to boost the morale of his ministry officials, who had been under public scrutiny for all the wrong reasons.

Easing M&A norms

Responding to a comment about the need for easing the mergers and acquisitions guidelines so that there is no danger to assets and customers once the spectrum trading and sharing guidelines are in place, Prasad said he will look into it as he believed that consumers needs to be protected. “Some companies have got some spectrum through the administrative route. Some have got through the auction. “How can we compare the two? That is a big challenge. This is because it challenges ethics, issues of propriety, and issues of level-playing field,” he pointed out. “Someone who has paid from his pocket in a fair competition, how can he be equated with an administratively held spectrum which came embedded with the licence itself. I think this is an issue we are encountering. This has led to a debate on M&A guidelines,” he said.

He was of the view that most of the spectrum should be made available at one go.

“We almost put 470 MHz in various bands and still some was left unsold. I think that was a milestone for our department. Today, FDI in telecom is the highest in the last five years,” Prasad added.

BSNL challenge

Another challenge he said was BSNL. “So much public money has been invested. BSNL’s profit in 2004, when we left office, was ₹10,000 crore and after 10 years when we came back to power, it is incurring a loss of ₹8,000 crore. This was for a variety of reasons, some very unfair,” he said. One year down the line, BSNL has added 47 lakh new active customers and its revenue has gone up by 2 per cent, he said, adding that “today BSNL has the strength to offer free roaming… Also in the offing are other plans, including changing the network to the next generation in the next two-three years.”

Explaining why he has been emphasising the issue of call drops, he said that while he may be “Minister for Telecom working for growth of the sector” he also needs to protect the interests of consumers.

Big potential for posts

Referring to the “less glamorous” Department of Posts, he said the target was to make the postman “a walking KYC (Know Your Customer).

“He should become a key pillar in digital inclusion. I am going to make all the post offices common service centres.”

Published on June 21, 2015
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