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|March 26, 1999||
The new telecommunications policy announced today gives a better idea of the direction in which the government has been thinking.
It sums up the several promises of recent months that were made by the Group on Telecommunications and the National Task Force for Information Technology and Software Development.
Communication Minister Jagmohan and GoT Chairman Jaswant Singh addressed reporters after the meeting.
Jaswant Singh said an announcement would be made tomorrow regarding the stand-off between the government and the TRAI over the new telecom tariffs.
Reporters were told that the cabinet has decided to strengthen the position of the TRAI by assigning it the role of an arbitrator so that it can resolve disputes between the government and any licensee.
Earlier, the government had taken the stand that the TRAI had no role to play between DoT as the licenser and service providers as licensees.
The government has also decided that voice telephony will not be opened on the Internet. Jaswant Singh said if voice telephony is allowed, then the Internet service providers will also become providers of fixed telephone services.
He, however, said the government would be constantly reviewing the situation.
The government has referred the issue of existing licences for basic telephone and cellular services to the attorney general.
The issue thus stands postponed indefinitely. Existing service providers had hoped for a quick solution to their problems in the new telecom policy.
Jaswant Singh said a reference would be made to the attorney general on the subject without prejudice to any court case. This has reference to some telecom operators approaching courts for resolution of disputes.
The new policy introduces the concept of a one-time entry fee and revenue sharing arrangement for the new licensees, the basis of which would be recommended by the TRAI in a time-bound manner.
Jaswant Singh claimed that the new policy has been framed in an open and transparent manner as the draft policy had been placed on the Internet for inviting comments and suggestions.
More than 1,500 suggestions were received and many of them were incorporated in the new policy that replaces the policy of 1994.
Jaswant Singh said DoT would be corporatised by the 2001 and as a precursor, a separate services wing of DoT would be created by separating the policy and licensing functions of DoT from the service provision functions.
He said the Cabinet decision regarding the new telecom policy has been made so as to meet the March 31 deadline that was set by Vajpayee.
The new policy also allows the entry of the DoT and the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited as the third cellular phone operator in each circle.
The permission of third operator will be without prejudice to the pending court cases.
The new policy, which will be effective from April 1, also allowed the entry of a fourth private operator on the basis of the recommendations of the TRAI, the policy document said.
MTNL had earlier planned to launch cellular services in both Delhi and Bombay but could not do so as both private operators in the metropolitan cities had challenged its entry and described it as violation of the 1994 telecom policy.
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