Better policies for allowing trading and sharing of spectrum are needed to bring down the cost of radio waves used for providing mobile communication, the pre-Budget survey said today. Also Read - Telecom spectrum trading to be allowed at last auction pricesAlso Read - Spectrum trading rules to be released by month-end: DoT
“policy for better spectrum management through trading and sharing of spectrum needs to be looked into so as to bring down the cost of spectrum,” said the Economic Survey, tabled in Parliament today. The government has in-principle approved spectrum trading and sharing but the guidelines are yet to be announced by the Department of Telecom. In February 2014 auction, the minimum price or base price of spectrum fixed by government was about 5 times more than the price in 2001. Also Read - Spectrum trading norms a forward looking move by the government: Vodafone India
Also, the base price of airwaves in 1800 megahertz band, widely known as 2G spectrum, was fixed at Rs 1,765 crore per megahertz. The final price of Rs 37,572.60 crore received during auction for this band by government was over 100 percent more than total value of spectrum put for auction at base price. The survey said that implementing better spectrum management “may also pave the way for a liberal merger and acquisition policy as has been demanded by stakeholders from time to time.”
The government has announced guidelines for mergers and acquisition but till date only one deal has been signed– between Airtel and Loop Mobile. The survey has also called for easing entry and exit rules for which “there is a need to look into separation of telecom networking from services.” Further, the survey has suggested that government needs to provide assistance for developing local manufacturing, research and entrepreneurship. Government under National Telecom Policy 2012 had made provision for three telecom sector funds — Telecom Manufacturing Promotion Fund, Telecom Research and Development Fund and the Telecom Entrepreneurship Development Fund — but none of them has been operationalised till date.
The survey said laying of national optical fibre network, nationwide mobile number portability and enhancement of rural telephony too needs government attentions. The NDA government has revised strategy for rolling out NOFN under which all 2.5 lakh village panchayats are to be connected with the network for high speed broadband services. As the revised strategy for NOFN, a target has been set to complete roll-out in 50,000 panchayats by March 2015, another one lakh by March 2016 and all the 2.5 lakh by March 2017.
The inter-ministerial panel Telecom Commission has given in-principle nod to nationwide MNP which will allow customers to change their telecom operators while retaining their mobile number in any part of the country. To enhance fixed line broadband connection in rural areas, the government entrusted state-run BSNL to provide broadband connection with minimum speed of 512 kbps in rural and remote areas under the Rural Wireline Broadband Scheme.
Under this scheme BSNL is to provide 8,88,832 wireline broadband connections to individual users and government institutions, and set up 28,672 kiosks over six years ending 2015 at estimated subsidy of Rs 1,500 crore. The survey said: “As on March 31, 2014, a total of 5,89,783 broadband connections had been provided and 14,186 kiosks set up in rural and remote areas. “The subsidy disbursed till March 31, 2014 under the scheme was Rs 329.55 crore.”