Learn from mistakes & move on- Telecom Industry should look at Silver Linings amid Spectrum Scam!

It’s really surprising to me, when people shout at each other without really understanding the arguments– what-so-ever they may be.  But when whole nation was grappled with Independent India’s biggest money scam, it’s really difficult to convince few simple things to people.

What’s has actually gone wrong is though to say. I have few arguments in favor of NTP-1999, which is really an epicenter of all the mess. I feel, when we decide on policy making, we often overlook fact that, ultimate beneficiary of policies should be ‘A Common Man’, irrespective of who-so-ever else gets benefits from it. There’s no single law made post independent era or rather a single policy made by GoI, which wasn’t evaded till date. And if it’s not so, then why would such policy exists, which neither benefit governments nor its poor people?

Let me clarify one point here- I’m neither supporter of corruption or nor will tolerate it. But yes, if you argue with me about benefits of National Telecom Policy-1999, where it’s decided that ‘Spectrum’ should be given on first-come-first basis or may be additional spectrum should be awarded based on ‘Subscriber Figures’, then why wouldn’t someone argue at that time only that such policies could be evaded easily? It’s just plain vanilla cake!

Ok, let’s go back in time & start at year 2000, where we actually started implementing NTP-1999. Had we imagine that telecom is going to so big after ten years? Had we imagine that more than 70 Cr people will own a mobile phone within span of ‘JUST’ 10 years’? It’s shameful that India doesn’t have good roads, electricity or even basic sanitations to many thousand villages, despite all those ‘Good Policies’, even after 60 years of independence, then why wouldn’t people argue and scrap such policies? Only because there’s no money involved into it or because these ‘Useless Policies’, which never achieved their objectives in last few decades, had never dared to make losses of crores of rupees to exchequers.

If we had auctioned the spectrum in year 1999, when it’s just the dawn of telecom era in India, the consequences would have been different. You never know. Perhaps, mobile phone would have remained ‘Object of Desire’ instead of becoming a necessity for common man. The rise of telecom sector to second fastest & second only to China wouldn’t be possible without loopholes in policies. This is all because, NTP-1999 made entry points easier. Anyone would come and setup business at cost of few hundred crore rupees (1700 Cr), which has now been raised to 140000 Cr or even more, at market price.

People, who argue against NTP-1999, often say that the policy was often evaded by almost all of the companies in telecom sectors in due course of time, but now only new players are suffering. I agree! But my dear friends, there’s always a right time to enter in the market. Few got it right, others screwed it up. Companies, who benefited from NTP-1999, are the companies, who not only earned cash, but changed the entire socio-economic relations of entire nation. Can any other sector or group of companies boast the same glory? Now, a person who earns Rs 3000/month can even own mobile & make calls. Can you ignore this fact?

NTP-1999 made telecom revolution possible here. Companies who only spent few hundred crores on spectrum invested the surplus on telecom infra (Towers etc). Policies made at a particular time, may become outdated in due course of time- that’s just plain simple thing. And in due course, till we realize that such policies need total revamp, few people made profits through loop-holes in systems. We or Government acted late.

This is also true for other policies in line pertaining to Broadband, VoIP, Solar or renewable energy etc. In fact, I would say, the power of communication hasn’t reached to masses in India. We have only heard of ‘Voice’ telephony till date, where world has already moved on to ‘Information Mega-highway’ i.e ‘Broadband’. Thanks to our illiterate babus, who can only think of raiding exchequer’s money but often overlooked the power of ‘Communication’. Given choice, Indian masses should actively participate in policy making. It would only benefit us. Dare to question!

If you spend 14000 Cr on spectrum ( as in case of current 3G/BWA Auction), how much would you be in position to invest in actual technological ecosystem or infrastructure?  And this is what happening with 3G roll-outs in India. Companies don’t have enough cash to spend to setup new towers. 3G users are complaining already about coverage. History tells us the same.

There’s no actually right or wrong way to sell telecom raw material aka ‘Spectrum’. We can only judge things on our judgments & learn from experiences and mistakes. We might have made mistakes in 1999, but at the end, common man was benefited tremendously. NTP-1999 is a success, as it has already achieved its objectives or perhaps more than that. Indian Telecom story is a tremendously successful story for whole nation. Now let’s pay the price for it!

Tags : Broadband PolicyIndia TelecomNational Telecom PolicyNTP1999Spectrum ScamTelecom policies in IndiaTelecom SpectrumTelecommunication in India