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UPA govt’s telecom scorecard drab

Monday, 9 February 2009 - 3:03am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

While the 3G auction issue has been referred to GoM, thereby indicating a long delay, many other ambitious projects have either not happened or have not been so successful.

The current UPA regime is likely to end without many user-friendly telecom initiatives taking off. While the third generation (3G) auction issue has been referred to a group of ministers (GoM), thereby indicating a long delay, many other ambitious projects have either not happened or have not been so successful. These include mobile number portability (MNP) and preventing unsolicited commercial communication.

As for 3G auction, decision has been taken on a GoM, but there’s no word yet on who would head it. Earlier, a GoM was set up for vacation of unused spectrum from defence forces more than three years ago, but it has failed to yield results.

Many issues need to be resolved on 3G auction, including the base price, number of players per circle and revenue usage fee. With Union communications minister A Raja under fire for 2G licence allocation to several companies on a first-come-first-serve basis last year, instead of an auction process, the government wants to take it easy on 3G.

While 3G auction was scheduled for January 16 earlier, it was deferred to January 31 later.

Along with 3G, auction for wireless broadband access spectrum has also been indefinitely deferred now. On mobile number portability, the department of telecom (DoT) wanted to introduce the facility by mid 2009. But, there are indications that it would be deferred, as not many telcos are ready for it. Once mobile number portability is introduced, one would be able to retain his or her mobile number while being able to switch over to another service provider.

Even as the government introduced the guidelines for preventing unsolicited commercial communication more than one year ago, there hasn’t been much headway in actually stopping the unwanted telemarketing calls and SMSes.

The telecom regulator, Trai, has strengthened the provision of the telemarketing regulation. The success rate of checking pesky calls is still low.

To top it all, dearth of adequate spectrum has impacted the quality of service in mobile telephony like never before. The periodic ‘quality of service’ reports brought out by Trai capture the trend. 

While user-friendly initiatives have hardly taken off, the subscriber numbers and the monthly additions tell a different story. As of December-end, the number of mobile subscribers was at 346.89 million and total number of phone users at 384.79 million. Teledensity of India is at 33.23%, and the average monthly addition is now at 9-10 million mobile phone subscribers.

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