Competition in telecom sector has brought tariffs down: PM

NEW DELHI: Emphasising that higher competition had led to lower tariffs in the telecom sector, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called for greater regulatory ease for the aggressive expansion of mobile services and spoke about the immediate rollout of 5G and thereafter 6G by the end of this decade to add almost half a trillion dollars to the economy over the next 15 years.

Speaking at the silver jubilee event of telecom regulator Trai, Modi said that governance, growth, and GDP had gained immensely from lower telecom tariffs and greater reach of mobile internet and smartphones across the length and breadth of the country.

He said that telecom services had got a booster after his government took charge in the year 2014, against the days of the previous UPA regime which he called the “2G era that was full of disappointment, desperation, corruption, and policy paralysis.”

“Today, we have moved out of that period and gained from the rollout of 3G, and thereafter 4G, and are now moving to 5G and 6G. This transition has been smooth, and very transparent.” The Prime Minister, who inaugurated the indigenously-developed 5G test bed, said that efforts should be made to do research and development on new technologies within the country, and asked start-ups and top educational institutions to take a lead on the issue.

“In the 21st century India, connectivity will decide the pace of development of the country. That’s why connectivity has to be modernised at every step… 5G will help in driving in governance, ease of living, ease of doing business… and also in areas such as agriculture, health, education, infrastructure, and logistics.”

He said that over the next decade-and-a-half, 5G will add $450 billion to India’s GDP. “That means it will not only boost the pace of internet speed, but also aid in economic growth and job creation. Thus, for the faster rollout of 5G, the government and the industry have to come out with collective efforts. By the end of this decade, we want to launch 6G services and for this our task force has already started doing work.”

He said that his government has driven reforms in the telecom sector, be it on the issue of retrospective taxation, or the AGR issue. “Whenever there have been challenges in front of the industry, we have responded as fast as possible. And wherever possible, we did reforms,” he said, adding that with technology inter-connecting various sectors, there is a need for “collaborative regulation”.

Also, the PM said that higher competition between mobile companies has helped in getting tariffs down. “We created competition… and due to this, today we are one of the cheapest data providers in the world.” Trai chairman PD Vaghela said the regulator’s recommendation on 5G services and launching of 5G test bed for the industry and start-ups will create new avenues for all the vertical sectors leading to overall economic growth.

Telecom minister Ashwani Vaishnaw said the country’s scientists and engineers have developed a complete 4G stack which is ready for deployment by BSNL and the 5G stack is at an advanced stage of development. “By the end of this year, we should see our indigenously developed 5G technology stack.”