New Delhi : The new telecom policy is expected to be cleared by the Cabinet by the end of next month, Communications Minister Manoj Sinha said on Tuesday.

“I am hopeful of getting Cabinet approval on NDCP by end of July,” he said.

The government has recently issued draft of the National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) 2018 which aims to provide access to every household with download speed of 50 Mbps, attract investment of around Rs 6.5 lakh crore in the sector and create 4 million new job opportunities with a few years.

Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said that the draft of the policy will be placed before the Telecom Commission — the apex decision making body at the DoT in its meeting on June 29.

The commission is also likely to discuss net-neutrality and framework for roll-out of new technology machine-to-machine communications.

“When this government came to power, the biggest challenge in telecom was that the whole sector was a victim of trust deficit, there was turmoil. In last four years we have restored confidence, brought transparency and established good governance,” Sinha said.

He cited the government’s efforts in ease of doing business, broadband for all and progress on the BharatNet project to connect all gram panchayats to underscore the achievements of his ministry.

DoT special secretary N Sivasailam said that there has been increase in public spending by six times, from Rs 9,000 crore in 2009-14 to Rs 60,000 crore in 2014-19, which includes both actual and planned expenditure.

In last three years investment in the sector has crossed Rs 3 lakh crore, from both government and private firms, which is one-third of Rs 9 lakh crore spend on the sector till date, he said.

Sivasailam said work is on to roll out 4,072 mobile towers with an outlay of Rs 7,330 crore by 2020, setting up of over 10 lakh WiFi hotspots in rural areas over and above 25,000 WiFi hotspots of BSNL and 7000 e-choupal with outlay of Rs 10,000 crore.

The government is also working on Rs 2,250 crore submarine and mobile network connectivity in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Islands and Rs 10,834 crore project for connectivity in the north eastern states.

The DoT also said that it has completed 90 per cent of optical fibre roll out for about Rs 24,000 crore dedicated communication network for Defence forces.

Sinha said that till date no work of such scale has taken place in the country for to expand connectivity in the country. “I expect IFC (in-flight connectivity) service should be in place in a year,” he said. He said that proactive policies of the government over the last four years have led to a sharp fall in mobile tariffs and a “marked improvement” in the call drop situation, while stressing that the Centre will not hesitate from taking tough decisions to maintain the “success story” of the telecom sector.

Sinha also sought to allay apprehensions around job losses in the sector, saying that new opportunities in telecom have spawned new jobs, and termed consolidation in the sector as a global phenomenon.

The minister was also quick to rise to the defence of telecom PSUs Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL) saying that the two companies are making all-out efforts to improve service quality, despite the “handicap” of not having 4G spectrum in an intensely competitive market.

BSNL, MTNL may get govt equity infusion

NEW DELHI: The gover-nment is seriously considering equity infusion for Mahanagar Telephone Nigam and Bharat Sanchar Nigam, and is also looking at allocation of 4G spectrum to the two state-owned companies, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha said on Tuesday.

“One of the handicaps for these two companies is that they do not have 4G spectrum. We are considering this issue seriously discussing it,” Sinha said at a press conference. “We are serious about equity infusion in the companies.”

The two public sector companies had sought allocation of 4G spectrum in lieu of an equity infusion by the government.

With private sector telecom companies locked in a tariff battle since September 2016, voice and data prices have crashed sharply. The losses for the two PSUs have been mounting as they, too, are caught in the battle.

To improve their services, BSNL and MTNL, who have been running their 4G services on 3G spectrum so far, had sought 4G spectrum for it.

A Parliamentary Standing Committee in March had recommended that the government should allocate 4G spectrum to the two companies soon.

“To compete and survive in the telecom market, the Committee feels that 4G spectrum should be given to them at the earliest,” the panel had said in March.

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