Jio effect: Govt panel to give views on telcos’ financial woes in 3 months

An inter-ministerial panel being constituted to suggest a policy prescription for the failing financial health of the telecom sector will consult banks and operators before finalising its views in three months.

The committee is expected to have representation from the Departments of Economic Affairs, Revenue and Financial Services, besides the Telecom Department, an official familiar with the matter told PTI.

The panel is expected to finalise its recommendations in the next three months.

Some of the recommendations could be placed before the Telecom Commission — the highest policy-making body in the Telecom Department — for an approval. For the other proposals mooted by the panel, a Cabinet go-ahead may be necessary.

“The internal plan is that the views of banks, telecom operators and also the large investors in the sector will be sought,” the official said.

The Department of Telecom is attaching top priority to the issue, the official said adding that the first meeting of the panel members is likely to be held this month itself.

The extent of financial stress in the telecom sector can well be gauged from the fact that the industry has a debt of Rs 4.6 lakh crore.

The sector has been under severe pressure since the entry of newcomer Reliance Jio, last year.

In September 2016, billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s venture Jio stormed into the Indian telecom market (incidentally, the second largest market globally with 1.2 billion subscribers) with free voice and data services, forcing established operators to slash rates to protect their turf.

This put revenue and profitability of all telcos under severe pressure, although subscribers benefited from attractive data and voice packs.

Even after launching its paid services post-March 2017, Jio continues to be aggressive, offering data at rock-bottom prices while voice calls are free.

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