The Indian government on Thursday indicated that contrary to fears being expressed in certain quarters, there was enough competition in the telecom sector and it was not leading to being a duopoly.
Asked by a fellow parliamentarian whether India was heading for telecom duopoly in the “backdrop of reduced number of effective operators in recent years”, junior Communications Minister Devusinh Chauhan gave market share data of various telecom service providers that highlighted a competitive space.
According to the data presented in parliament by Communications Ministry, if in the mobile segment Reliance Jio and Airtel had 36.15 and 29.83 percent of market share, respectively, in the fixed-line segment state-owned BSNL and MTL had a lion’s share (46.34 percent) with Airtel at No. 2 spot with about 23 percent.
The minister also enumerated some key enabling steps taken by the government in the recent past for the telecom sector, which are as the following:
(i) For facilitating proliferation of telecom networks, Right of Way (RoW) Rules, 2016 framed and notified to make the process of obtaining RoW permissions time bound and transparent.
(ii) For telecom services, including infrastructure providers, FDI up to 100 percent is allowed with 49 percent under automatic route and beyond 49 percent through the government’s approval.
(iii) Option has been given to service providers for deferment of spectrum auction payment installments for two years (2020-21 and 2021-22).
(iv) Option has been given to service providers for a higher number of installments (maximum 16 installments) for deferred payment liabilities of spectrum acquired through auction(s).
Chauhan added that adjusted gross revenue (AGR) payment related dues, which were under litigation, the Supreme Court permitted the respective telecom operators to make the payment of 10 percent of the total dues, as demanded by the Department of Telecommunications by 31.03.2021, and to make payment in yearly succeeding financial year.
Apart from that, the government has placed a cap on total spectrum holding of a service provider in a licensed service area to a maximum of 35 percent of the total available spectrum to avoid spectrum hoarding.
Various initiatives to protect the interests of consumers and service providers have helped in the expansion of telecom networks in the country and deployment of the latest mobile technologies. At present, nearly 98 percent of the Indian population is covered with 4G mobile networks, the Minister indicated.