The government will look at positioning the telecom sector primarily as an enabler to boost the economy rather than a revenue earner under the new National Telecom Policy (NTP), a senior government official said today.
"There are two-three big changes that we are trying to make (in NTP). ...it is not telecom the revenue earner that should be predominant in government's mind but telecom the economic enabler. That change in orientation we are certainly looking at as a very key element in the NTP," Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said at an IAMAI event.
She was responding to a query about the key changes that the new policy in works will bring to the sector.
Industry players have frequently written to the government and various authorities that the telecom sector should not be seen as a cash cow and as means to bridge fiscal deficit.
The government had expected a revenue worth Rs 98,995 crore from the telecom sector in fiscal year 2016-17, which included Rs 63,580.92 crore from spectrum sale. However, it could collect only Rs 32,434.10 crore from the sale of airwaves in that fiscal.
Economic Survey 2016-17 had expressed concerns over high spectrum price.
While the Comptroller and auditor general (CAG) had said that the spectrum allocated administratively in 2008 had led to notional loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the national exchequer, telecom operators have blamed high price of radiowaves that they pay in auctions as one of the key reasons for financial stress on the sector.
Sundararajan said that the second main focus of the new policy will be "getting quality technology and services" and increasing telecom connectivity in the country.
"What we are looking at is at least minimum 3-time scale in telecom footprint over next five years. We need to think ambitiously in this area because that's the rate at which aspirations are growing in this country," she said.
The telecom secretary said the National Telecom Policy will focus on development for the next five years.
"We are looking at 2023. Horizon beyond that in technology doesn't make sense," Sundararajan said.
The new telecom policy is likely to be in place by March.
Sundararajan said with consolidation happening in the market, telecom players will be able to monetise their business. She, however, said that the companies should not "end up charging the customer too much".
She expressed concerns over cyber security and said organisations, especially those of governments, need to be continuously vigilant about threats.
(This article has not been edited by Zeebiz editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)