Telecom sector problems coming to an end: PM

Last Updated: Thu, Dec 13, 2012 11:07 hrs

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday said the problems facing India's troubled telecom sector are nearing a solution and the new policy being brought in would address concerns of worrying investors, providing a new impetus for growth of the communications industry.

He also stressed the need to strengthen the country's manufacturing capabilities in telecom in particular and in electronics in general.

"This sector has had to face some tough challenges in the past months. However, I believe that under the distinguished leadership of (Telecom Minister) Kapil Sibal, the period of difficulties is now coming to an end," the prime minister said, inaugurating the India Telecom 2012 conclave in the capital.

In the past one year, he said, the government had tried to clarify the policy positions on a number of complex issues. It had allocated adequate spectrum in "a transparent manner through market-related processes".

"I am confident that the futuristic policy regime that we are now putting in place will address, and address effectively, the concerns that have been worrying investors and will provide a new impetus to the growth of telecommunication industry in our country," said the prime minister.

He asked the stakeholders to dwell on the thinning down of the domestic manufacturing capabilities in telecom sector over the past 20 years.

"We need to strengthen our domestic manufacturing capabilities across the entire value chain in telecom and electronics," he said, adding that the new telecom and electronocs policies lay down the regime for enabling this to happen.

He asked the captains of industry, especially in the private sector, to seize the opportunity.

"We need leaders in telecom and electronics manufacturing who can break new ground and create the ecosystems to enable India to be a major producer of hardware."

"Our government is committed to doing everything possible to support such efforts."

Manmohan Singh said the telecom revolution offers myriad opportunities for accelerating the country's development and urged the industry to come up with strategies to boost teledensity in rural areas in creative partnership with the government.

"I urge industry, which has shown great innovation in the telecom sector, to come up with strategies to expand teledensity in rural areas," he said.

"I also urge the Department of Telecommunications to think big and think creatively to see how the resources available to it, either through the USO (universal service obligation) Fund or otherwise, are better used to achieve this purpose."

"We cannot and we should not have an India where lack of a phone is a hindrance to inclusive growth," the prime minister made clear, reminding the gathering that the New Telecom Policy-2012 envisages 70 percent rural penetration of teledensity by 2017 and 100 percent by 2020.

Touching on the significance of broadband connectivity as a tool for empowering India's rural masses, he said the National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) project would usher in a new era in telecommunications by establishing information highways across the country, particularly in rural areas.

"I would urge all government departments and the private sector to work creatively to ensure that this infrastructure is efficiently used to make broadband services affordable and accessible," the prime minister said.

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