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McClatchy-Tribune  06/19/2014 3:49 AM ET
DoT moves to revive investor confidence in telecom sector [Mint, New Delhi :: ]

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June 19--NEW DELHI -- The department of telecommunications (DoT) has drawn up a plan to boost investor confidence in the country's telecom sector during the first 100 days of the new government.

Apart from clearing issues related to the telecom sector that are still pending, DoT has decided to publish a roadmap for the auction of spectrum in the 700 megahertz (MHz), 800MHz, 900MHz and 1800MHz bands within the timeframe "for investors to plan participation and invest in the telecom sector", an internal note of the DoT, reviewed by Mint, said.

Investor confidence in India's telecom sector has been shaken by the scandal over alleged irregularities in the allotment of 2G spectrum and licences in 2008, and the cancellation of 122 telecom licences under a 2012 order by the Supreme Court. A tax dispute with Vodafone Group Plc has also hurt investor sentiment.

Clearing the pending issues quickly and publishing a roadmap for a spectrum auction will benefit investors, said Hemant Joshi, a partner at Deloitte Haskins and Sells, a consulting firm.

"This will help operators in making informed decisions about the future," said Joshi. "DoT should also come out with clear policy guidelines to bring an end to the various litigations. Such policy guidelines would result in avoidance of distraction from the business and would help in bringing FDI (foreign direct investment) in the sector."

A decision on inter-circle mobile number portability (MNP) will be taken to enable mobile users to retain their number even if they move to another operating area, the note said. On Friday, the Telecom Commission had given its in-principle approval on the issue.

Other issues that will be reviewed include spectrum sharing by telcos and cabinet approval for spectrum trading. The graded penalty system, introduced by former communications minister Kapil Sibal, will also be notified, the 100-day agenda note promises.

DoT will also ensure availability of contiguous spectrum wherever possible -- a move that is expected to significantly enhance the efficiency of usage of the airwaves, enabling better quality of service and newer communication technologies.

The plan has also included a number of issues that were highlighted by communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at the time he took charge of the ministry, including connecting 200,000 gram panchayats in the country by 2017.

The note promises that 1,000 gram panchayats will be connected with 100Mbps bandwidth in the next 100 days. This will be done using the national optical fibre network (NOFN) being built by the government.

The NOFN will also have a government user network overlay connecting all major government offices across the country. This will cost the government Rs.4,900 crore to build and an additional Rs.2,500 crore to operate and maintain it for the next 10 years.

Improving communications services in North-East India and regions affected by the Maoist insurgency will also be a top priority, Prasad had said on Tuesday.

A communications plan for disaster management will also be notified in the next three months, the note said.


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