Telecommunications

Telecoms Ministry panel to propose business-friendly reform measures

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has set up a five-member committee to propose measures to reform and restructure its operations to adopt an industry- and business-friendly approach. The idea is also to reduce the industry’s compliance burden for various processes.

Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw emphasized efficient administration and developing consumer-friendly policies with light regulations. The government last year announced a series of telecom reforms to address the financial problems of telecom operators. The government believes that a healthy telecommunications industry is necessary if connectivity is to be provided to all people in the country.

“If the industry is solid and strong, we can reach out and provide telecom services to remote places in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, North East, Ladakh and Kashmir valley regions. For this, we need a strong industry. Our thought process is that we need to strengthen the industry by making structural changes,” Vaishnaw said after the reforms. The DoT is working on another set of telecom reforms, which will be announced shortly.

Currently, there is very low-level coordination between different DoT units, and time and time again operators have to submit the same type of compliance to different units. The compliance burden can be understood from the fact that mobile operators have to submit approximately 1,500 to 2,000 compliances per year to various DoT field units.

Considering that there are 22 Licensed Service Areas (LSAs) or telecommunications circles across the country, the number of compliances may be around 22,000. Besides compliance, there is the problem of overlapping jurisdictions. Also, too many senior DoT officers are doing work that can be described as below their seniority. For example, approximately 5 to 6 DDG-level agents are stationed in each TERM cell. TERM cells typically handle customer acquisition forms and perform field inspections of telecom networks, etc. The same work is also done by Trai. Across India, there are 34 DoT TERM Cells.

There are 28 controllers of communication account offices in the country to take care of the financial statements of telecom operators like license fees, etc., and do the audits. “It’s a waste of human resources. All of this work can easily be centralized at DoT headquarters. DoT surplus ITS officers should be identified and assigned to state and local agencies to aid their digitization work,” an executive said.

The DoT committee may also review the establishment of DoT field units – LSA units, CCA units and Wireless Monitoring Organization (WMO) units in each telecommunications circle, and propose reforms to ensure full coordination. The committee is chaired by Additional Secretary VL Kantha Rao and has Senior DDG SK Jain, Additional CGCA SK Mishra, Wireless Advisor RK Saxena and Co-Secretary Anand Singh among its members. In addition, the committee may co-opt additional members as needed and request introductions from heads of various field and home offices. The committee must submit a report within three months.