TRAI seeks subsidy for rural mobile towers
TRAI favours giving subsidy of Rs 9,000 cr for setting up mobile towers in rural areas.india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 17:33 IST
Telecom regulator TRAI on Saturday favoured giving subsidy of Rs 9,000 crore for setting up mobile towers in rural areas, a huge market that is still waiting to be tapped.
Calling for a change in government policy to stimulate demand in rural areas where the mobile telephone operators can go, Chairman Pradeep Baijal said the TRAI's proposal on the subsidy was before the Centre for consideration.
If the government continues with the present policy, about Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 crore would have to be spent. However, if the rural mobile towers are subsidised the entire country can be covered with only Rs 9,000 crore, he said.
This would result in further growth as there was huge demand for mobile telephones in rural areas, he said speaking at the inaugural session of a seminar on 'Status of Dispute settlement and Protection of consumer rights in the Telecom and Broadcasting sectors', in Kochi.
The tele-density growth in India was increasing by 2 per cent every year and it is expected to touch 3 per cent this year, Baijal said. While from 1948-1998, the tele-density was only 1.94 per cent, from 2005 onwaerds it has been rising by 2 per cent and at present it is 35 per cent, he said.
The telecom lines from the present 130 million, is likely to go up to 250 million in the coming years.
There was competition between aggressive public and private sector players, he said adding the Indian market was highly price conscious and discriminatory. MORE
In his inaugural address, Justice PK Balasubramaniyan of the Supreme court said there was a need to curb the 'digital assault' on the consumers. Through uniform guiding principles and effective policies, mobile operators should be made more accountable to the privacy of the individuals and there should be scope for penalty for privacy violations.
He said in 2004, the Apex court had issued notices to the cellular operators and the court had asked them to crack down on unsolicited tele-marketing calls for car loans and other articles.
Telecom consumers also have fears of eavesdropping and manipulations of data, he said.
Senior supreme court lawyer, CS Vaidyanathan, said Telecom Regulators and appellate tribunals have the power and duty to settle disputes rather than staring an adjudication process.
Describing the Access Deficit charge as a 'Frankenstein' created by TRAI, he alleged that most of the disputes in the telecom field are the result of 'impractical' policies developed and evolved by the Union government and the Regulator.
Kerala High Court Chief Justice, VK Bali, Justice N Santosh Hegde, chairperson, Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT); Vinod Vaish, Member TDSAT. were among those who spoke.
Addressing a technical session on 'Status of Dispute Settlement Mechanism in the Telecom sector in India', AK Sinha, Chairman and Managing Director, BSNL, said the multiple interconnections for multiple services have increased the billing and settlement disputes between the operators. The complexity and size of the interconnection arrangements were increasing as well, he said.
The 'multi operator-multi location interconnection environment' was putting tremendous strain on the scarce resources of the incumbent to provide infrastructure support to the competing networks, thus leading to disputes.
Sinha said the convergence of services and technologies will further lead to more disputes.
Competition had led to rapid growth of services. The total customer base as on January 31 stand at close to 113 million. About 55 per cent of the telecom market was being controlled by private sector as on date, he said.
Sinha said there was need to avoid frequent changes in the regulatory and licensing policies as they have far reaching financial implications and adversely affect the planning and investment decisions of the stake holders.
Senior Advocate, TP Kelu Nambiar led the discussions on the session on Consumer rights under the TRAI and Redressal of Grievances. Roop Sharma, Cable Operators Federation of India President, Mahesh Kumar, President and CEO Asianet Satellite communications; John Britas, MD Kairali TV were among those who spoke.