Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said the tough challenges faced by India's telecom sector are 'coming to an end'.
"This sector has had to face some tough challenges in the past months. However, I believe that under the distinguished leadership of Shri Kapil Sibal (Union Telecom Minister), the period of difficulties is now coming to an end," Singh said while addressing the inaugural session of India Telecom 2012 here.
Speaking on government policies, he said: "During the last one year, our government has taken a number of forward looking initiatives in the telecom sector. We have announced the New Telecom Policy 2012.
"We have attempted to clarify the policy positions on a number of complex issues. We have attempted to ensure adequate availability of spectrum and its allocation 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," the PM said.
Speaking on teledensity in rural areas, Singh said: "While urban India has today reached a teledensity of 169 percent, the teledensity in rural India stands at only 41 percent. Not only this, the bulk of the 59 percent people who do not use phones in rural areas is perhaps from the socially and economically backward sections of our society.
"We must address this rural-urban divide if we have to achieve our goal of socially inclusive growth."
The Prime Minister urged the Department of Telecommunications to use the USO (Universal Service Obligation) Fund to address the rural-urban divide.
"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 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," Singh said.
"The New Telecom Policy-2012 envisages 70 percent rural penetration by 2017 and 100 percent by 2020. We should all work together to achieve these targets and in fact do better than what we have promised," the PM said.
Singh emphasized on the need to strengthen India´s domestic manufacturing capabilities in telecom in particular and in electronics in general.
"I would also like to reflect on the thinning down of our domestic manufacturing capabilities in telecom in particular and in electronics in general over the past two decades.
"We need to strengthen our domestic manufacturing capabilities across the entire value chain in telecom and electronics. The new Telecom and Electronics Policies lay down the regime for enabling this to happen," he said.
Singh said: "Now it is for the captains of our industry, particularly in the private sector that they have to seize this unique initiative. As a major automobile buying country, we have developed a strong automotive sector. I believe this can be and must be replicated in telecom and electronics as well."
"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," he said.