An open letter to Mr. Narendra Modi – Cleaning the Telecom Muddle in the country
It is refreshing to see the course of action that you have been taking to put India and Indian Economy back on track. Knowing that your time is precious, i would keep this short and to the point. I write this letter with a four pointer action plan as the road-map for the recovery of telecom sector in India. While i would avoid playing cliche, the background to all this is how telecom/ broadband penetration is directly associated with GDP acceleration and inclusive growth of the economy. Out of the very many reports that substantiate this fact, the IAMAI ICRIER report on Internet’s impact on the Indian economy suggests a $17B p.a boost to Indian economy basis broadband basis the fact that 10% increment in broadband penetration can increase GDP by 1.08%.It is believed that if the TRAI broadband roadmap 2012 targets are met, it would generate $87B to Indian economy within 2012-14 time-frame.
The policy paralysis from 2011-2014 coupled with disputes on spectrum and spectrum-pricing, retrospective taxes has arrested the growth of telecom sector – and now with a stable governance building up for next 5 years, it is expected that you would be instrumental in resolving not only the immediate issues but provide a long term vision of growth of this sector. With due respect sir, may i beg to put a few pointers to the long term needs and hence the roadmap of the industry.
The right horse and the right cart
1. While spectrum related regulations need a cobweb cleaning – it is important that the roapmap takes into account the right spectrum for telecommunications. By right spectrum, i would mean the 450 MHz and 700MHzDD bands to be put in pace. With 4G in place, if the right spectrum support is provided to the ISPs/ operators, it will give a huge boost to providing high speed broadband not only to urban centres but also to rural areas. The economic effects of putting the right spectrum and the right technology together in the long runs outweighs any immediate hassles that need to be undertaken for setting this prescription in place.
Dont put the cart before the horse
2. Growth and Governance would need to walk side by side. One cannot follow the other. While governance would need to make monies and admissibly so, retrospective actions, arbitration and taxes would need to be side stepped. A very just economic model for spectrum auctions could involve – Low CAPEX (auction rates) and higher OPEX (Revenue shares) with operators.
A few horses for inclusive development through broadband
3. A phased project scoping of telecommunication projects with critical KPIs – which could be based on social parameters, such as education, healthcare, community care powered by broadband could also be a very apt in driving inclusive and sustained growth – could also lead to interesting results. Such a project would need to be driven from the PMO in terms of a large scale integration with ministries, states and operators
The race winning horse cannot have too many jockeys
4. Last but not the least, there has to be one apex body on Telecom, suitably represented by Telcos, Telecom infra companies, other telecom eco-system players, ministries, consulting bodies and the officials. We would need to do away with too many such bodies (including the now dissolved EGOM) and too many voices and opinions (often contradicting) – and need one apex body for the industry.
I am sure, with your wisdom and perspective, many and most of these points would be in your agenda. While there are other priorities that you may right fully have, this four pointer could be a good starting point for cleaning up the Telecom muddle in the country.
(Views expressed in this blog are solely mine with no affinity or bias towards anyone)