It was a towering feat for the telecom industry in 2015 to cross 100-crore subscriber mark, but the call-drop menace spoiled the party and the operators are now pulling up their socks to face greater competition with the imminent entry of Reliance Jio in 2016.
It took a rap on the knuckles by the government for the mobile operators to beef up their network performance, which still remains far from the optimal levels with dropped calls still remaining a problem in many areas.
The government is however hopeful that the problem of call drops will become a thing of past in the new year with the operators putting up more towers, while more spectrum could also be made available to them at the earliest.
“The government will try to auction spectrum as soon as possible depending upon Trai’s recommendations,” Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told PTI. He, however, added that the scarcity of airwaves is not an issue as spectrum sharing and trading guidelines are already in place that can be used by operators to augment their services.
The New Year can also bring in many more new services for the customers at affordable rates. With the government framing a new policy for additional features on mobile phones, customers will be able to communicate in their local languages and access services like e-payment through their phones.
“PM has said governance must be available on the mobile phone so we are going to have a good initiative to encourage mobile phone operators by a suitable policy framework to have further features like e-payment, governance issues etc on mobile phones,” Prasad said.
For the industry, 2016 can be a ‘make or break year’ where resolution of issues around call drops, net neutrality debate and availability of spectrum will be critical. Still, consumers can expect to save on mobile bills with availability of public wifi and pressure on internet rates due to expected entry of pan-India 4G player Reliance Jio. Also, most of the incumbent players including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have already their launched the 4G services.
Though data usage of consumers is likely to see a significant increase, the spending may not be in proportion to the usage with availability of public wifi.
“The pricing would be under pressure and 2016 could see intense completion on the price front, both for data and voice. Intense completion may give rise to innovative tariff plans including bundling offers, etc,” Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP Partner Hemant Joshi said.
The trend is expected to put pressure on financial health of telecom operators as the government has been talking tough on issues like quality of service and call drops and wants the companies to enhance their investment on infrastructure. Bharti Airtel announced an investment to the tune of Rs 60,000 crore in networks over a period of next three years.