The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Compromise telecom solution

New Delhi, April 12: As a mid-way solution to the telecom tangle, the communications ministry is likely to propose a universal licence for telecommunications and information technology till a convergence licence is issued.

A senior official in the communications ministry said, “Universal licence for telecom and information technology may be a solution and we are examining it.

Though convergence of various communication media will require a single licence, the information and broadcasting ministry is yet to sort out major issues connected with this at its end.”

A committee consisting of two non-government experts specialising in finance have been asked to examine important issues connected with the offer of a universal licence for the telecom and IT sector. They will examine the question of the models and principles that should form the basis of such a universal licence.

The committee has also been mandated to explore and assess what will be the future of the telecom companies in terms of mergers and acquisitions. It will also look into whether financial institutions or telecom equipment suppliers will in any way be financially affected by this universal licence.

Meanwhile HSBC has submitted its report recommending the merger of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd.

This is one of the six expert groups the government had appointed to examine the merger of the two telecom public sector companies.

“HSBC has said the two companies should be merged and then separate divisions created for cellular, basic, broadband, long distance or any other service. It is imaginative but we will have to wait and examine the other reports before we can prepare a final proposal,” a senior communications ministry official said.

However, the communications ministry is keen to support the efforts of BSNL which is committed to fulfil the village public telephone target.

“We have written to finance minister Jaswant Singh and the officials about the situation and have reiterated the need for providing support to the telecom major,” sources said.

“It is important that the BSNL board should be empowered to function freely,” sources added.

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