Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Friday said “the auction of spectrum for 3G and broadband wireless access (BWA) services will be conducted very shortly. In a reform initiative, the government has decided that this spectrum will be allocated at market-determined prices rather than through an administered mechanism.”

Speaking at the ‘India Telecom 2009’ summit here, Dr. Singh said: “The provision of 3G and BWA services by private sector telecom companies, in addition to BSNL and MTNL, will help the market to grow rapidly. This will also make available data services to a wider section of consumers and give a fillip to broadband on wireless, unfettered by last-mile constraints,” he said.

Referring to mobile Number Portability (MNP), which will allow subscribers to change their operators without changing their mobile numbers, Dr. Singh said it would be implemented early next year. “This would give more choice to consumers. It would, in the process, encourage telecom companies to improve the quality of their service as well,” he said.

Fastest growing market

Pointing out that India was the fastest growing telecom market, with the addition of over 1.2-crore subscribers every month in the last year, of which 5 million were from rural areas, Dr. Singh said it was a matter of great satisfaction that India’s telecom tariffs were among the lowest in the world. “This has been possible due to our regulatory regime which has encouraged competition, and also due to the innovation and enterprise of our private sector,” he added.

Stressing upon the need to end the digital divide, the Prime Minister said: “Our rural tele-density is 20 per cent as compared to over 100 per cent for our towns and cities. We must therefore double our rural tele-density in the next three years. It is imperative that we exploit to the fullest extent the opportunities offered by mobile telephony for purposes of promotion of financial inclusion.”

Expressing concern over the slow growth in the telecom manufacturing sector, Dr. Singh said: “The decision to allow 100 per cent foreign direct investment in the manufacture of telecom equipment and the various fiscal incentives now provided by the government should be used to attract potential investors.”

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