The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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November date to sort out thorny telecom issues

New Delhi, Sept. 12: The group of ministers (GoM) on telecom will take up the first draft for discussion on September 25 to solve various contentious issues by November-end. The issues include limited mobility through wireless in local loop (WiLL) and a unified licence for all communication services.

The department of telecommunications will prepare the draft and present it to the GoM headed by finance minister Jaswant Singh. However, the telecom ministry will itself decide on an advice by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to restrict calls of limited mobile operators within the short distance area. The GoM will merely be informed about the decision.

Communications and information technology minister Arun Shourie said, “The members of the GoM are generally aware of the issues and it would be our endeavour to provide clear-cut directions in the final draft.” He was speaking at a seminar on dispute resolution in the telecom sector organised by the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

Shourie asked for restraint from making vision statements and policy announcements and instead sought modest implementable statements in the draft. Dispute resolution panels should also be restrained in their judgements since these are often exploited by lawyers to extend the issues, he added. He also asked the competitors and contenders to refrain from indulging in mud slinging against each other.

Shourie said, “We expect a resolution to the eight issues before the GoM by November-end. However, a few more issues may crop up in the discussions.”

The GoM will take up issues relating to release of additional spectrum to telecom operators, the National Telecom Policy, convergence bill, unified licence, SDCA limits, foreign direct investment limit for service providers, mergers and acquisitions and imposition of trade taxes. The GoM will include communications minister Arun Shourie, defence minister George Fernandes, external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, law minister Arun Jaitley and information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Shourie also said a special agreement had been signed between Myanmar and India for laying a fibre optic cable in Myanmar connecting 12,000 villages in the country and the border areas of the two nations. The gateway for the system will be located in Calcutta.

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