India Mobile Congress: Telcos talk IUC, financial mess; call for better partnerships

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By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi |
Published:September 28, 2017 5:50 am


(From left) RIL Chairman Mukesh Ambani, Bharti Enterprises Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal and Skill Development Minister Dharmendra Pradhan at the India Mobile Congress 2017 in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Express Photo)

At the first edition of the India Mobile Congress, top bosses of the Indian telecom companies, including Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman, Bharti Enterprises and Mukesh Ambani, chairman, Reliance Industries, shared the stage addressing each other amicably, and called for better partnership in the industry to grow the digital ecosystem.

However, the distress between the older players such as Airtel, Idea and Vodafone, and the new entrant Reliance Jio particularly on account of issues such as reduction in IUC, was also witnessed at the gathering.

“We have to invest in building next-generation tech assets. We have to root out inefficiencies across the ecosystem and we must break silos and forge partnerships. No single corporate, nor the government, can do it alone,” Ambani said. Mittal, concurring with Ambani, said: “As Mukesh pointed out, none of us can do it alone. While we compete head-on for the benefit of the customers, we have to collaborate, build ecosystems, and use common towers and fibre”.

The sense of competitiveness also surfaced as Idea Cellular’s MD Himanshu Kapania pointed towards aggressive plans by Jio that forced all operators to reduce their tariffs, and the recent cut in IUC, as key reasons that “drastically altered the dynamics of the industry, resulting in the sector passing through severe financial as well as mental stress”.

“The proliferation of bundled unlimited usage plans, outcome of lack of effective regulatory interventions have had a deep impact on the realisation of the industry. The announcement of the reduction in IUC further depletes the industry of its investable funds…,” Kapania said.

“With the drop in IUC, the poorest of Indians using mobile services in rural areas who spend only Rs 10-20 a month are looking forward to continuation of the subsidy element by 2G operators, but they are not in a position to do so. The challenge today is that the government has to decide whether it wants only forward looking technology or will it allow coexistence of 2G with 4G. The Trai has pushed us to a level where only one technology survives…,” Kapania said.

Kapania’s speech was followed by Reliance Jio’s president network, global strategy and service development Mathew Oommen, who began by saying: “I will be in the 4G speed, so I will do it pretty quick”.

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