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THE NATIONAL TELECOM POLICY AND ITS IMPLEMENTATION (PART 5)
Vinod Anand | 31 Jan 2012

Licensing a company in more than one area: There should normally be no objection. The contiguity of the States to a licensee is desirable and makes the new enterprises more viable. In order to give a chance to significant numbers, it would be desirable to limit the number of states to any one franchisee to say 3 or 4.

As local revenues are at best 33%, domestic long- distance about 40% and international about 27%; statewide franchises, enabling intra-state long distance traffic to be carried by the franchisee, make the new enterprises not totally dependent upon the mercies of long distance carriers, for financial viability.

Plain Old Telephony only or every telecom/information service to be licensed, in the area assigned?

It would be odd that so important a provider of services as telephone is not allowed to provide other services like cellular mobile radio phones, radio-paging, trunked private mobile radio, audio/video conferencing, store and forward fast FAX, packet-switched data, V-SAT, base private networks, on-line data-base access etc. DOT was not allowed is understandable because it had a monopoly in telephony. When once monopoly is ended, then DOT as well as the licensed public telephone operators should be allowed to provide every service, old and new. To be fair to the PTOs, both DOT and the PTOs may be required to provide non-voice services through subsidiaries to prevent cross- subsidies that can kill competitors.

There is one ethical question concerning the already licensed CMRT, radio-paging and E-Mail private companies. They could say that they quoted certain license fees to the DOT and agreed to certain price caps on the understanding that DOT or new PTOs would not provide the services. Their market share could now dwindle and their financial viabity jeopardized. There is strength in their apprehension. To meet that adequately, the DOT/new PTOs should be allowed to provide any of the non-voice services only if the pre-1994 Aug Licencees are not providing the services in a reasonable time and that too only in such areas where their coverage has not extended in that time.

Foreign alliances for the companies to be licensed:

Unlike in developed countries, the reason for demonopolisation and that too in the basic telephony, is to quickly extend the network, create capacity ahead of demand and at the same time introduce new services. The objectives call for

(a) Large investments.

(b) New technologies to reduce investment required per line, especially the connection of customer premises to the exchange called “access” must get over the need to dig the roads to lay cables by multiple enterprises.

(c) A new work culture totally focused on and dependent upon customer and his needs.

(d) Network management, operation, maintenance and service skills, all totally dependent upon software. While Indian engineers and equipment may respectively be intelligent and versatile, it is the man-machine interaction in the interest of efficiency, economy and customer satisfaction that is totally absent in the Indian telecoms (and other services too).

(e) India needs direct foreign investment (and not loans) to supplement our invisible resources.