Bharti Infratel chairman asks DoT to penalise telcos that fail on 5G rollout obligations front

Bharti Infratel Chairman Akhil Gupta has urged the government to ring in an affordable base price of 5G airwaves in the next sale and also made a strong case for penalising telcos failing to meet their 5G rollout obligations beyond the Tier 1 & 2 cities.

“Telcos failing to meet 5G rollout obligations, and only confining their coverage to Tier 1 & 2 cities with purely a profit maximisation aim, must be heavily penalised,” Gupta said, addressing delegates at the ET Telecom India Mobile Conclave 2019 Tuesday.

Conversely, phone companies that fully meet their 5G rollout obligations outside Tier 1 & 2 cities, he said, must be incentivised by way of “a complete waiver of licence fees, which can be recovered from the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) that has been accumulating over the years”.

“Let’s invest more in networks and less in spectrum and ensure India comes well above the 50th mark in the ICT index of the International telecom Union (ITU) in the days to come,” Gupta said.

5G services, he said, “must not be a showcase merely of South Delhi and the Nariman Points of India; this fast wirless broadband technology needs to go deep into the country, the benefit of which must be taken by the hinterland”.

The Bharti Infratel chairman rued the decline in the telecom industry’s fortunes, which instead of generating millions of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth creation, was seeing “massive job losses,” which “was unfortunate”.

Going forward, Gupta said “a balance between consumer interest and health of the industry needed to be kept in mind” by all stakeholders.

On a brighter note, Gupta told delegates at the ET event that India is the biggest guzzler of data, with consumption levels hitting a robust 12-13 GB per customer per month.

The reason for this scenario, he said, is since data is cheapest in India. “The pricing at which we offer data is lowest in the world, in that a GB in India costs 26 cents, compared to a global average of $8.53 per GB, which translates to about Rs 17-18 per GB in India vs a Rs 600 per GB global average.”