Matter to be placed before Cabinet soon
NEW DELHI/CHENNAI: Communications and Information Technology Minister A. Raja on Wednesday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discussed issues related to spectrum auction for 3G and WiMAX (high-speed wireless broadband).
He also apprised Dr. Singh about the demands of the IT industry, including tax sop extension.
The auction of 3G spectrum for private operators has been delayed, as the government has failed to finalise the reserve price for spectrum and the number of 3G players to be allowed per circle. While BSNL and MTNL are already offering 3G services, a pan-India rollout of the third generation mobile services by private operators is still awaited.
Finalising reserve price
Mr. Raja urged the Prime Minister to finalise the reserve price and other issues so that the services could be rolled out at the earliest.
The Group of Ministers, formed by the Prime Minister in his previous tenure to look into these issues, had failed to come up with a mechanism for spectrum allocation after the Department of Telecom and the Ministry of Finance locked horns over the pricing. However, the Prime Minister is likely to place the matter before the Cabinet for approval at the earliest.
After taking charge, Mr. Raja said he would ensure complete rollout of 3G services by the year-end. “I will be moving a Cabinet Note on the introduction of 3G services very soon, and I assure you that the spectrum for 3G services will be auctioned within two months from the date of decision of the Cabinet,” Mr. Raja told Dr. Singh, according to a government source.
The decision to introduce Mobile Number Portability (MNP) would be implemented at an early date, Mr. Raja told the Prime Minister.
The decision taken in 2008 allows a subscriber to retain his number while changing the service provider. It is expected that the services will be available by September-end in Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai, and by March next in the rest of the country.
IT task force
Mr. Raja also requested the Prime Minister to set up a task force for the information technology sector, with the representatives of Industry, academia and eminent personalities, to suggest policy measures to help the country gain an edge over others. The Ministry is also planning a series of ‘growth-boosters’ to give a fillip to the sagging morale of the IT sector.
A three-year tax holiday extension for the Software Technology Parks of India, encouraging IT majors to look within the country and regular interaction with the industry to address the problems of immediate concern were among the steps being taken urgently.
On the STPI, Mr. Raja reasoned that the one-year extension being given now was not sufficient to attract huge investments that India needed to spur growth. Most companies took more than a year to set up shop, so the one-year extension was meaningless for them.