Big Policy Intervention Not Required In Telecom, Hints IMG

Panel on telecom sector health to meet again next week

A section of the panel looking into the telecom sector's health feels large scale policy intervention may not be needed given green-shoots of financial recovery seen in the April-June quarter, a senior government official said, drawing protests from the industry.

The sources said the next meeting could be held on August 16 and there is a possibility that the report may be signed on August 17.

The official aware of the discussions in the inter-ministerial group (IMG) said that a few steps such as extending the period for making deferred payments to 16 years and lower rate of interest may suffice.

Once the recommendations are prepared, it will be placed before the Telecom Commission and ultimately to the Cabinet, for approval. Emerging from the one hour meeting, the source who participated in the meeting said that the general thinking in the IMG is that big bang policy intervention may not be required given the "green shoots" that are now visible in the industry.

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The government panel is likely to meet again next week - likely August 16 or 17 - to take a final decision on the measures that the sector has been seeking for months, another person familiar with the matter said. If approved such proposed relaxation will improve the cash flow of telecom companies.

Right now, a portion of spectrum auction amount is taken as upfront payment by Department of Telecom (DoT) and the balance after a two-year moratorium is paid out every year in 10 instalments.

The other proposals being discussed include convergence between DoT guidelines and RBI guidelines on the issue of allowing spectrum as a collateral.

The sector is in under financial stress due to increasing pressure after the entry Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio with free services and cheap data offers to lead to massive fall in revenues and a debt of about Rs. 4.6 lakh crore.

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