Telecom ministry at crossroads

Exactly a year after Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal came out with a number of policies to boost the telecom sector, the scenario is still grim with the sector standing at crossroads with several issues yet to be addressed.

Sibal on January 1, 2010, had announced a 100-day programme to ensure a clarity and transparency in the scam-hit sector.

Though the minister had announced the draft national telecom policy in mid-2011, the final policy is likely to be out in mid-2012 as the government is still in the process of deciding the one time fee for spectrum. Sibal, however listed key issues like new licensing norms, exit policy for operators, sharing and trading of spectrum and mergers and acquisitions, in the draft policy.

The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) is still clueless about how to address the growing need for more spectrum. DOT’s efforts to secure radio waves vacated from the Defence Ministry, has not borne fruits either.

The DoT had banked on the launch of 3G services to improve sentiments in the market, but the initiative has failed to take off in a big way. But the biggest twist has been the differences between operators and the DoT over intra-circle roaming. 

Checking broadband proliferation is another humongous task. The department also needs to streamline the loss-making Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), which includes introducing voluntary retirement scheme for its three lakh employees and a public issue to improve financial health of the organisation.

However, DoT has delivered in introducing mobile number portability (MNP) and checking unsolicited telemarketing calls. While the new policy talks about expansion of MNP from circle to pan-India level, it also promises to discard national roaming that would make calls cheaper.

But Sibal faces a challenge in blocking pesky SMS generated from the Internet as the government has no technology to address the issue.

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