BSNL to offer free national roaming from June 15

BSNL to offer free national roaming from June 15
State-owned telecom company BSNL will offer free national roaming facility to its subscribers from June 15, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said today, even as he asked private players to address the call drop issue as "being done" by the public sector firm.

"BSNL will start offering free national roaming from June 15. It's already on the recovery path," Prasad said during a press conference on completion of one year of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government.

The announcement comes ahead of full mobile number portability (MNP), which will be effective from July this year. BSNL had a mobile subscriber base of 7.72 crore as of March-end.

"I have said repeatedly that I am the telecom minister of this country but I am also the minister for consumers' interest, so if BSNL is taking initiatives on call drops, private operators should also understand that call drops need to be minimised, they must reinforce their mechanism," Prasad said.

Prasad added that he has directed officials in the department to work on a disincentive architecture (for the operators).

"They (officials) are working on it and if needed, TRAI may also be consulted," he added.

The Minister added that in his role, he is responsible for ensuring that consumer interest has been kept in mind.

Explaining the issue and possible architecture, Telecom Secretary Rakesh Garg cited the example of a telecom operator which is offering free calls in lieu of call drops.
Prasad said BSNL has commissioned 15,000 new base tower stations in one year which has resulted in less call drops.

The Minister said to address the problem of call drops, now mobile towers need to be installed and people should not pay heed to this whole campaign on radiation.
"If anyone comes with a clear evidence of problem and danger from the radiation, I will look into it. This kind of campaign is not fair," he said. 

Regarding the spectrum sharing and trading guidelines, Prasad said they will be send to Cabinet by the end of this month.

The Telecom Commission will discuss the guidelines in its meeting on June 11 and after that the Cabinet will take the final call.

On the application of Postal Department for a payment bank licence, the minister said approval from the RBI is expected by July or August.
On a query on Net neutrality, Prasad said the telecom department panel which was set up to look into the issue has submitted its report and it will be made public in a few days.

"Yes, they (the panel) have submitted the report to me. In few days time, the report will be put on the website, you can see and access it. I have asked the Secretary to send a copy to TRAI, so that they can also have a look at it," Prasad added.

On a query about CAG's observations that undue benefits were accrued to telecom operators, the Minister said the issues pertains to the time of the earlier government and the matter is now in front of the parliamentary committee and whatever it decides, the government will accept that.

About the Opposition's assertion that not all the money from spectrum auction has been received by the government, Prasad said, "I can't expect a better query from people who were parading zero loss theory, that zero loss theory has been exploded...since they have nothing else to offer in the wake of fair auction, be it coal or spectrum, therefore this question has been raised which has no foundation."
He added the government has already received about Rs 30,000 crore from the spectrum auction.
 
On funding problems faced by the two proposed semiconductor fabs, Prasad said, "My department people are in constant touch with them and both of them have assured us that they are working out their funding pattern and I know because fab manufacturing requires big capital infusion but they have assured us and we are taking their assurance seriously."

The Union Cabinet had accorded approval for establishing two fab manufacturing facilities by two consortia -- one led by Jaiprakash Associates Ltd along with IBM (USA) and Tower Jazz (Israel) and the other led by HSMC Technologies India Pvt.
Prasad said telephone connections crossed 100 crore in April 2015, the fastest increase in the last 11 months as compared to the previous three years raising national teledensity to 79.85 as against 75.23 in March 2014, 73.32 in March 2013 and 78.6 in March 2012.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow in the telecom sector touched USD 2,853 million in 2014-15 (upto February 2015), he added.

Talking about the postal department, the minister said speed post revenue grew to Rs 1,470 crore in 2014-15 from Rs 1,369 crore in the previous year whereas parcel revenue growth which had dipped to -2 per cent in 2013-14, registered a robust growth of 37 per cent in 2014-15.

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