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"You See, Nobody Has Applied For C Circles"

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, chairman and CEOof BPL Innovision Business Group, a key mobile player, spoke to Outlook on how under the garb of improving rural teledensity, the government's new policy, if implemented, could ruin the mobile business and work i

Jitender Gupta
"You See, Nobody Has Applied For C Circles"
Are you happy that the prime minister has asked the GoT-IT to review limited mobility?
It is heartening that the government has seen the need for a review and I hope this is an impartial and objective one and our views are also considered. You cannot change an established government policy overnight favouring a few while hurting those who have already invested money and played by the rules. I hope the GoT does not merely rubber-stamp or ratify the decision that has already been taken. We are all naturally worried. Look at what is happening with our appeal on the limited mobility issue with the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (tdsat). What the government is saying is that the tdsat has no jurisdiction over the DoT. If we can't go to the tribunal for redressal, where do we go?

Have you all been explaining your problems to communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan?
No, not Paswan. We have for quite a while been dealing with the pmo and the secretary, DoT. In fact, I did make presentations in December to N.K. Singh, explaining our point of view. We have nothing against the pmo involving itself. But the problems begin when it starts signaling to the ministers what should be done.

Paswan says that limited mobility has been introduced to improve teledensity and rural telephony...
Nowhere in the world has limited mobility been introduced to improve teledensity. If wll technology is used to improve rural telephony, we welcome it. If it's used to bring fixed-phone services to the villages, why should we object? But if the spectrum is being given for mobile services in urban centres to the advantage of a few, we will be concerned. If you check the applications, you will see no one has applied for C category circles, where the teledensity is the lowest. So much for promoting rural telephony.

What about affordability? The new service is a lot cheaper...
The affordability business is a lie. The cost of initiating the service—Rs 15,000—is passed on to the consumer. As for the low cost of a call, that's because 50-60 per cent of the revenue from long-distance calls is retained by the operator.

What would happen if the GoT review ratifies the earlier decision?
It will undermine Rs 40,000 crore of business. Also, it would send out wrong signals to foreign investors. What we are asking for is a clear-cut policy, a level playing field and well laid out norms which are adhered to and not changed arbitrarily.
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