Published On:February 4 2016
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TEMA wants a level-playing field for Rs. 5,300 crore Northeast project.
Opposing the move to limit participation in the North-East telecom network rollout to only mobile service providers, Indian telecom gearmakers want the government to open it for others as well, especially when the project is being subsidised.
'It (limiting it to telecom operators) will benefit only a few select mobile operators who were, in fact, supposed to provide coverage in these areas as per their licensing terms and conditions, but never reached there even after 15-20 years of issuance of licence,' TEMA Chairman Emeritus N K Goyal said in a letter to Telecom Secretary last month.
Talking about 'licensed access service providers' as part of eligibility criteria in the bid document, he said a request to this effect has been made to allow participation of telecom infrastructure providers in 'the larger interest of the nation'.
On September 10, 2014, the Cabinet had approved an over Rs 5,300-crore project to boost telecom infrastructure and connectivity in the North-East.
The industry body has requested DoT to roll out the N-E project similar to the way it was implemented in Left extremist areas where domestic manufacturers were roped in to set up mobile network, and telecom operator (BSNL) used it for providing mobile services.
'When the government is giving subsidies for a project of national interest, it is important that right technologies or solutions comply with national standards,' Goyal said.
The project aims to provide 2G mobile coverage in identified uncovered areas and seamless mobile coverage along National Highways in the North-East. The plan will be funded from the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), in which all telecom operators contribute part of their revenue earned from telephone calls.
The project is yet to kick off and the government is working on finalising the vendor to roll out the network.
'The project was intended to benefit the North-East, but has already been delayed significantly. And the stakeholders are still waiting for clarifications on various points. It seems the project is being delayed intentionally to benefit some parties,' Goyal alleged.
At present, there are 43,200 villages in this region, of which 9,190 (21 per cent) are not connected to any mobile network. Under this project, the Cabinet has approved a coverage of 8,621 villages through installation of 6,673 towers.