The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on Monday assured the telecom industry of its full support during the lockdown to ensure network uptime. Senior officials of DoT, DoT Secretary and Director General, COAI discussed the continued preparedness of the industry during a meeting on Monday.
In the meeting, note was taken of the substantial help provided by DoT to the industry to meet the challenges of the increased traffic load on the networks and logistical issues involved in maintaining network uptime.
Video platforms downgrading to SD from HD, single points of contact and operational centers in each LSA, continuous interaction with local TERM cells and local police to free movement of critical personnel, permission to extend reporting and filing requirements, notifying Telecom as an essential service, among other things ensured there was a significant improvement for operators to function smoothly.
DoT noted that because of the close working, the number of faulty base transceiver stations (BTS) was approximately down to 290 from the earlier 800 before the quarantine. There are over 22 lakh BTS nationwide.
Similarly, the number of optical fiber cuts was reduced from 100 a day to approximately 19 fiber cuts during the past 15 days of the quarantine. Power companies had also been instructed to ensure stable and continuous power to cell towers.
DoT has assured that it will review and take expedited decisions in the industry’s additional issues. COAI has put forth additional issues like the request for dynamic IP Addresses, additional backhaul spectrum, additional relaxation in filing compliance requirements due to the extension of the quarantine period, clearance of pending network Equipment Type Approvals (ETA), SIM activations, movement of essential goods, etc.
COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews said, “The industry appreciates the close working relation and timely actions by the DoT and the Secretary, Shri. Anshu Prakash, in addressing the critical issues of the industry during this unique period in the history of the nation. We wish to assure the citizens, customers and the government that despite the precarious financial health, the industry will do everything in its power to ensure that its networks will continue to function as a vibrant, essential component of the nation’s economic and communications health and well-being.”
COAI also raised the need for the government to address the distressed financial plight of the industry. COAI has asked for a reduction in the license fees, spectrum usage charge as well as modifications in the GST where spectrum debt payments, LF and SUC payments would not be classified as services and hence not attract GST.
COAI had recently approached the Finance Ministry to provide soft loans against GST input address the immediate liquidity crunch, reducing the SUC to 3%, reducing license fee to 3%. They have also urged to exempt the levy of GST on license fees, SUC, and payment of spectrum acquired in auctions. It further seeks exemption of service tax on the amount payable on LF/SUC by telecom operators in compliance with Hon’ble Supreme Court Order.
COAI has categorically dismissed any concerns that suggested risks to the networks as a result of delays in meeting industry requests to DoT.