New Delhi: Telecom czar Sunil Bharti Mittal Friday made a strong pitch for lowering the high taxes and levies on the telecom sector, saying the government should not view it as a source for the exchequer, but rather as a ‘force multiplier’ for ensuring economic momentum.
Mittal, who is the chairman of Bharti Airtel, also said that the Prime Minister’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat has given a clarion call to the industry to ensure that more value addition is done in India for telecom networks, mobile devices, and software.
“Taxes have generally been very high on this industry. It is important that this is reviewed thoroughly and telecom resources like spectrum, levies should not become a source for the exchequer, but should become a force multiplier in ensuring economic momentum becomes faster and gets accelerated. So, the government can earn its dues from other industries who are going to be riding on the back of this wonderful industry,” Mittal said.
The government should ensure that telecom industry, which has had its share of ups and downs, is given due attention in area of levies and taxes, Mittal said, speaking at an event organised by industry body Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) and IMC Studio on the occasion of ’25th Anniversary of Mobile Telephony’ in India.
Mittal said it is time for India to take a lead in the area of local manufacturing.
“PM’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat is giving us all a clarion call to ensure more and more value addition is done in India for telecom networks, mobile devices, and software,” he said.
Tracing the journey of telecom sector over the last 25 years, Mittal talked of more than a billion “connected” Indians, not just in cities and small towns, but in villages and rural areas.
Indian story of billion people connected on mobile network, of which nearly 600 million people are on broadband internet, is a story unparalleled anywhere in the world, Mittal said, adding that tariffs in the country are among the lowest in the world.
“Customers are enjoying over 15 GB of data usage per month at the most affordable rates anywhere in the globe. For less than Rs 200, people are accessing applications, music, entertainment, vital government services, direct benefit transfer (DBT) access, financial inclusion – all that is being done for the vast majority of our country,” he said.
However, the telecom sector which saw the number of players surge from 2 to 12 over a period of time, is now back to having “3+1” operators, he said.
“Given the digital dream that our Prime Minister has, telecom indeed is playing a very vital role in ensuring that the society is connected. Telecom works as digital spine for vision of Digital India,” Mittal said.
Telecom industry and its workforce emerged as frontline “corona warrior” during the pandemic, Mittal said, adding that the industry played a key frontal role in keeping the society connected, and ensuring that the economic engine continues to move forward.
“I cannot imagine how any nation during COVID-19 would have survived without a robust telecom network,” he noted.
He said that telecom sector will play vital role in ensuring India’s digital dream is realised.
“Digital India is a vision that country holds very dearly. Telecom will play vital role in ensuring digital dream of our Prime Minister is met, and met with first rate telecom network which is leading-edge on technology, which will ensure that when 5G comes to India telecom operators will take a front-end role in connecting all that is required to be connected in the country,” he said.
Mittal said that over the next 25 years Internet of Things (IoT), low latency connectivity, and 5G enabled nationwide network will take the centre-stage, and ensure that digital payments, online activities, ecommerce, health services, agri services, government subsidies going into mobile accounts, are all done through a robust mobile network.