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Govt mulls single telecom licence: Shourie

Fakir Chand in Bangalore | June 17, 2003 12:58 IST

The Union government is actively considering issuing a single license to telecom operators for offering multiple services ranging from voice, data to multimedia services in view of the increasing convergence in technologies.

Union Minister for Information Technology and Communications Arun Shourie told rediff.com in Bangalore late on Monday night that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India was seized of the issue.

TRAI was working on a draft paper in consultation with the experts in the field, including the existing service operators.

"We are working towards a telecom unified license. HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh (who is also chief of Infrastructure Development Finance Company), has already submitted a working paper on the issue. TRAI is studying it. We have also sought the expert opinion of a couple of IIT professors," Shourie stated.

Since technology convergence has led to a communications revolution, the ministry is considering a common license with the required spectrum to enable operators offer any type of service, including transfer of pictures or movie files.

"As the licensing policy in India evolves like a coral reef, we also need to address the concerns of the existing service providers who are saddled with different licenses for multiple service offerings, after paying hefty fee," Shourie said.

Shourie hoped that ''existing licence holders will not block what technology could provide.'' The telecom policy itself needed to be reworked to the extent that it provided general and adaptable policy guidelines instead of going into the details on specific issues.

"I only hope the present operators would cooperate with the government in ushering in such a unified licence. We are also working on the financial rules for their smooth transition and entry of new players," he said.

Asked whether the ministry would come out with a new telecom policy to meet the multiple demands of consumers, Shourie said: ''The licensing regime should not come in the way of what technology enables."

"The policies should be based on general principles and not become a constraint to technology changes. The model should be like the US constitution with only 14 articles rather than the detailed one like ours," Shourie affirmed.

The minister said that President A P J Abdul Kalam had also advocated a new regime licence to take advantage of the technology convergence technology for the benefit of all consumers.

Asked about Railway Minister Nitish Kumar's plea that Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited be allowed to have equity participation in RailTel, Shourie said the MTNL board had expressed its unwillingness in this regard.

On the other hand, even though BSNL would not invest in equity, it had entered into a memorandum of understanding to utilise RailTel's surplus capacity, he informed.

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