‘5G dawn of new era for Indian telephony’ – Times of India

As India prepares to migrate into the 5G era, Ashwini Vaishnaw — the telecom minister who gets credit for executing the most successful spectrum auctions the country has ever seen — has his task cut out. “Improve the quality of services, and ensure a smooth and hassle free launch of the high-speed networks, but at an affordable price for the consumers. ” As the exchequer is assured of getting a record Rs 1. 5 lakh crore from the auctions, TOI speaks to Vaishnaw on how he sees the telecom sector progressing from here. Excerpts:
Did the resounding success surprise you?
Thisresult is surely much better than what had been anticipated by everybody, including some of the stakeholders and investors. Many were expecting the auctions to fetch anywhere between Rs 80,000 crore and Rs 90,000 crore. But the reforms unleashed in the sector, led by the directions given by the Prime Minister, gave confidence to the companies about the future of the telecom and digital businesses, resulting in record spectrum sales. This heralds the dawn of a new era for Indian telephony.
Not long ago, the telecom sector was seen as a laggard, and a financially strained business. Will things change now?
With the government coming out with a liberal and progressive rescue package for the industry in September last year, the tone was already set. We have given relief on critical matters such as spectrum usage charge (SUC), AGR and bank guarantees, to make the business financially viable for the companies. The entire industry is now moving in a positive trajectory. With fresh investments and tech upgrade to 5G, telecom is now being seen as a sunrise industry.

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While government gets Rs 1. 5 lakh crore from auctions, how much incremental investments do you expect from companies towards network and infrastructure upgrade?
We expect telecom companies and allied industries will invest at least Rs 2-3 lakh crore towards expansion and upgradation of networks and current setups. Investors feel comfortable today and most of the risks have been removed.
Coming to consumer services, will a mobile phone user need to pay very high tariffs for 5G? There are reports that 5G prices may be 20% higher than what consumers pay today. . .
As you know, telecom tariffs in India are among the lowest in the world. We are already among the countries that offer the most affordable services. Given this trait of affordability and the economies of scale our country offers, I think the trend (of current tariffs) will continue.
What about quality of services? There have been persistent issues such as call drops and slow internet speeds. . . .
Now that mobile companies have bought additional spectrum and have an easier regime for putting up towers and laying optic fibre, they will have to improve consumer services. We will be asking the operators to significantly improve the quality of services. We will be advising them, also nudging them, towards improving the consumer quality.

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