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State Govt, Cities Committing Big Mistake By Looking At Revenue From Telecom Infra: Official

Telecom sector players often complain that local authorities in some states demand high charges for laying optical fibre cables and other network equipment.

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Local government bodies, state governments and others who are looking at telecom infrastructure as a source of revenue are committing a big mistake, a senior telecom ministry official said on Monday.

He said that due to the pandemic several people have been pushed to below poverty line and there has been job loss but the telecom sector should work on a mechanism to ensure that they continue to stay connected with mobile networks for accessing services available online.

'Our municipal corporations, our cities or our state governments look at our telecom infra as a source of revenue. I think they are committing a big mistake. I accept that we are failing if we are unable to explain this to them that this is for your benefit,' Department of Telecom, joint secretary Hari Ranjan Rao said at a telecom seminar organised by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He said a lot of work has to be done on the communication front to convey clearly that telecom infrastructure is beneficial for the state.

Telecom sector players often complain that local authorities in some states demand high charges for laying optical fibre cables and other network equipment.

There have been incidences when some authorities have increased levies on telecom towers etc.

Rao said that every government service should be digitised and be made accessible on phone and the telecom sector can play a vital role in ensuring good connectivity. 'In this pandemic of the last one year, and unfortunately the second wave, more than 40 crore people have been again pushed back below the poverty line. We know jobs have been lost. How can we as a fraternity, which is the backbone of the nation make a difference in their lives? What are the small measures that can be taken to reverse this joblessness that has taken place during the pandemic?' he said.

He said that not a single citizen should be left out of this network for whatever be the reason.

'If that reason is lack of affordability, let's find something for them so that they become part of a larger network. If they are unable to pay, let somebody else pay for them but let's not leave them for the simple reason that they can't afford to pay,' Rao said.

He said that the implementation of Right of Way Rules 2016 is not happening on the ground in some states as per the spirit of the law.

Telecom industry body COAI Director General SP Kochhar said that when the sector is gearing up for 5G, the government should not look at primary revenue coming from the telecom sector but look at secondary revenue which comes from various sectors from the expansion of connectivity.

'The revenue that will come from various industries by using 5G will be many- fold of what is happening today. Please remember 5G is not empowering you and me but it is about connecting machines to machines,' Kocchar said.

According to recent data published by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the licence fee collection of the government increased by 16.49 per cent to Rs 3,809 crore the quarter ended December 31, 2020 from Rs 3,270 crore on a year-on-year basis.

The spectrum usage charge (SUC) levied on the basis of AGR and spectrum holding of the companies also increased by 22.22 per cent to Rs 1,538 crore during the quarter from Rs 1,256 crore government earned in October-December 2019.

Apart from this, some state governments and local bodies levy charges beyond levels suggested by the centre for laying optical fibre cables.