The Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) said on Sunday that the government's economic package didn't include relief measures for the telecom sector amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The long-standing demands including reduction in license fee and other levies were not addressed in the Rs 20 lakh crore economic stimulus package unveiled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Even as the sector demonstrated its ability to maintain connectivity and meet consumer demands for high data and traffic amid lockdown, the package didn't figure it specifically in the announcements, news agency PTI quoted COAI as saying. The telecom body is still going through the finer details of announcements made by FM Sitharaman, the news report added.
"We are disappointed, as we were expecting that given the importance of the industry and the need for us to continue to invest in networks going forward...putting new cell towers, new fibre to provide the speeds that customers require, the fact that we are supporting additional areas like work from home...we expected some relief for the sector in terms of critical things that we had asked for," Director General Rajan Mathews told the news agency.
On Sunday, Nirmala Sitharaman announced measures related to MGNREGS, healthcare, education, businesses, decriminalisation of the Companies Act, ease of doing business, public sector undertakings, and resources related to state governments.
"We have been asking for big-ticket items like rationalisation of licence fee and spectrum usage charges....because you have to get liquidity into the industry...we are surprised that what the industry has shown as necessity of networks would not be translated into assistance for the industry to ensure its orderly growth. That said, we are still hoping that the government will consider our request," Mathews added.