Warning private mobile operators against any deterioration in quality of service, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday said a lot of spectrum is available and the companies need to take into account the concerns raised by consumers on call drops and other problems.
The minister said he will ask telecom regulator Trai to look into the matter if consumers continue to raise concerns, even as he hoped that there would be a “negligible impact” of just about Rs. 0.013 per minute on call tariffs from the recent spectrum auction.
The minister said that telecom operators should now start working to improve quality of service and address issue of call drops.
Prasad said that he is answerable for quality of service (QoS) delivered by state-run telecom firms, but at the same time accused previous UPA government of hurting financial condition of BSNL and MTNL.
“This issue has always baffled me. BSNL was in Rs. 10,000 crores profit in 2004 when Mr (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee left the office. It reported about Rs. 9,000 crores loss under Dr. Manmohan Singh. Which were the forces that were keen to ensure that BSNL runs in loss, same with MTNL,” Prasad told PTI in an interview.
The minister said BSNL and MTNL are now expanding network to improve quality of service (QoS).
Warning private telecom operators on QOS, he said, “As a minister, I am equally accountable to consumers. If the consumers of India are complaining, there are lot of call drops in case of private operators, they must take this as caveat consideration. Lot of spectrum is available.”
He said if consumers continue to raise concerns then he will bring the issue in notice of telecom regulator Trai for its consideration.
On apprehensions that call rates would increase due to the revenue outgo of telecom operators in spectrum auction, Prasad said he believes that there will be negligible impact of Rs. 0.013 per minute on mobile call rates.
“I very firmly hold that it will be negligible. Mobile rates in India are one of the lowest in the world. This business case has emerged because of huge potential in India … 97 crores plus mobile subscribers. The market will also expand very soon to 100 crores mark,” Prasad said.
“A very good expert whom I respect shared with me that Indian consumers make mobile calls worth 350 minutes. The spectrum price paid by companies is for 20 years. If you divide that by 20 years, the yearly impact come to about Rs. 5,300 crores on industry whose annual revenue is Rs. 2 lakh crores plus,” Prasad said.
He said that further dividing the Rs. 5,300 crores by average minutes of call made by consumer the impact comes to around Rs. 0.013.
Industry body Cellular Operators Association of India had contested analysis shared by the minister and said that the impact on call rates will be to the tune of 12-15 percent.
When asked about projection of COAI, Prasad said, “I am not suppose to argue with industry as a minister. If there is view let them see it as business case.”
He also said that telecom service providers have done good work that led to expansion of market supported by good business case for them. The minister said that government is working to release spectrum sharing and trading guidelines soon.
“Trai has given its recommendation on spectrum sharing and trading which will be considered by Telecom Commission before it becomes a law. If Telecom Commission has some different view then they will send it back to Trai for reconsideration,” Prasad said.
He said that government is open to make changes in merger and acquisition guidelines.
“Whatever can facilitate growth of industry, I am open to make changes to the extent it will be possible. Whatever is doable will be done,” he said.
Talking about next round of spectrum auctions, Prasad said, “I will take presentation from Department of Telecom on availability of spectrum and after spectrum won by telecom operators in recent auction is allocated, there is a process which has to be followed.”
The spectrum auction that concluded on March 25 fetched government bids worth Rs. 1,09,874.91 crores.
As per the final results, Idea Cellular made maximum commitment of Rs. 30,306.98 crores followed by Airtel at Rs. 29,130.20 crores, Vodafone Rs. 29,959.74 crores, Reliance Jio Infocomm Rs. 10,077.53 crores, Reliance Communication Rs. 4,299.13 crores, Tata Teleservices Rs. 7,851.33 crores and Aircel Rs. 2,250 crores.