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Use USO fund fully, urges telecom industry

Business

Telecom industry majors made a fervent appeal to fully utilize the Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund to boost connectivity, especially in the rural areas to fulfill the government’s agenda of inclusive growth. The call was made at the inaugural conference on ‘Bridging the Telecom Divide’ at India Telecom 2009 – Telecom for Inclusive Growth’ organized by FICCI and the Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
Manoj Kohli, CEO & Joint MD, Bharti Airtel Ltd, said the government had a major role to play by way of a conducive policy in line with the Chinese government policy which provides free land for building telecom towers, subsidized power and construction of roads. It was imperative, he said, to leverage and capitalize on government’s development initiatives, especially for optical fibre laying for broadband bandwidth, and leveraging of the deployed infrastructure for non-telecom usage, viz. electrification, education, mobile health and financial inclusion.
Urs Pennanen, Region Head – India, Nokia Siemens Networks Pvt. Ltd., pointed out that sustainable mobile broadband required more than just technology. It was all about creating the right business model to fuel inclusive growth. He said, there was a positive correlation between broadband connectivity and economic growth and at the current stage of development, it was important for India to spread mobile broadband in a big way as it was a proficient technology for voice and data communication.
He said, 3G would enable the service providers to reduce cost of voice and data transmission, lead to greater network/spectrum efficiency and provision of high-speed broadband. For the people, it would mean affordable communication, last mile access, life and business enhancing applications and enriched communication capability. For the government, 3G would spell higher growth and improved delivery of services to the remotest parts of the country.
Ron Resnick, President & Chairman, WiMAX Forum, observed that it was critically important for the government to come out with a stimulus package for the telecom industry so that the investments in the sector were justified by the value derived from the deployment of financial resources.
Quoting various studies, Resnick said, a 10% increase in broadband network leads to a 2.5% increase in per capita GDP. WiMAX technology was critical to meet the Indian government’s commitment to reach 100 million broadband subscribers by 2014 from the current level of 7.4 million. P Balaji, Vice President – Marketing & Strategy, Marketing Unit – India & Sri Lanka, Ericsson India Pvt. Ltd., noted that rural India was rapidly moving from poverty to prosperity. Rural disposable incomes were today two-and-a-half times more compared with urban India at the same level of income. Technology and infrastructure sharing along with innovation, he said, were crucial for reducing capital expenditure and operational expenses by 70%.
He underlined the need to subsidize mobile devices through the USO fund, use of low-cost GSM handsets, refurbished handsets and availability of micro finance for initial purchase of such devices.

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