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Won’t encourage monopoly in telecom sector: Ravi Shankar Prasad

Union telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the telecom industry leaders that it wants fair competition in the sector
New Delhi: At a meeting held on Saturday with telecom industry honchos, the government told the industry that it wants fair competition in the sector and will not encourage monopoly. It also asked telecom service providers to prioritise the quality of service and ensure “robust involvement” in 5G as also $5-trillion dollar economy blueprint.

Govt assures full support

Union telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who met leaders from the industry, assured that the government will provide full support to them on outstanding issues such as a cut in levies and refunds. “I have assured them three things...We want a fair competition. The government will not encourage any monopoly and will do its best for ease of doing business,” Prasad said. “I highlighted to them, the need for a robust involvement of the industry in 5G innovation, startups, and creation of 5G products that can create India specific patents. I said that in the five trillion economy target, 25 percent should be telecom’s contribution,” the minister said after meeting industry CEOs.

Prasad says have taken up tax issues with Finance Ministry

At the meeting, Prasad told industry leaders that he has already taken up outstanding issues like inputs tax credit and lowering of GST rate with the Finance Ministry. He added that a proposal pertaining to the reduction of universal service obligation (USO) levy is also under the telecom department’s consideration. “I have asked companies to look at improving the quality of service. Also, 43,000 villages are uncovered at present. I have told the industry to pool in their resources so that in one year, we can reach all the uncovered villages and they have agreed. The Department of Telecom (DoT) will provide all assistance,” Prasad said.

The backdrop

The interaction was Prasad’s first with industry leaders after he assumed charge of the telecom portfolio. It comes at a time when the entire sector is reeling under a cumulative debt of over Rs 7 lakh crores and state-run BSNL, which was a profitable company till 2009-10, is in a battered financial state. The meeting was attended by Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal, Vodafone Idea's Balesh Sharma, Reliance Jio board member Mahendra Nahata and BSNL chairman PK Purwar.