42 telecom-specific SEZs to be set up soon

NEW DELHI: Telecom-specific Special Economic Zones are to be set up soon to turn the country into a telecom manufacturing hub.

The Communications and Information Technology Ministry sources told that an ?Export Promotion Forum? was also being set up under the aegis of the Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association of India to promote export of telecom equipment and services.

In fact, these sources said that as a first step, the Commerce and Industry Ministry has already notified 42 Sector specific Special Economic Zones (SEZs) for Electronic Hardware, Information Technology including Information Technology Enabled Services (IT/ITES) under the provisions of the SEZ Act 2005.


Of these, the largest number of ten SEZs would be in Andhra Pradesh, followed by nine in Tamil Nadu, eight in Karnataka, three each in Kerala and Maharashtra, two each in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and one each in Chandigarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, and West Bengal.

India has already become the third largest telecommunication network in the world after China and the United States.

The Ministry has set a target of 500 million phone connections by 2010 and nine million broadband subscribers will be added by the end of the year of which seven million will be by the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited.

Information Technology Minister Dayanidhi Maran had recently said that broadband connections posted a growth of 70 per cent to touch 2.3 million at the end of March, as compared to 1.35 million last year. The broadband subscribers were 2.21 million in February last, thus adding 0.09 million subscribers in the month of March. The total number of existing ISP licencees is 382.


The total number of telephones in the country is now more than 206.8 million with teledensity of 18.3% as against 142.1 million with teledensity of 12.74% during the corresponding period of last year, registering a growth rate of 45%.

The GSM segment has shown an increase of 6.1 million during the month of March 2007 and the fixed segment by 0.5 million, while the CDMA segment declined by 2.8 million. As a result, the credit of net increase in the subscriber base thus became 3.8 million only.

Under the Bharat Nirman Programme, 41706 villages out of the 66,822 villages have been provided with Village Public Telephones (VPTs). The remaining 25116 villages are to be covered by November this year.

Ministry sources added that with the passing of the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Bill 2006, it will be possible to provide Universal Service Obligation (USO) support to provide mobile services and broadband connectivity in rural areas. USO subsidy support scheme will be utilised for shared wireless infrastructure in rural areas with about 8000 towers by 2007. Measures are being taken to increase availability of spectrum including the release of substantial quantum from Defence.

The Government has also said it favours the entry of foreign telecom operators in the country to take advantage of the additional 42.5 MHz spectrum becoming available for third generation mobile telephony and introduce competition. A new 3G Spectrum Allocation Plan is also expected to be announced by the Department of Telecommunications after additional spectrum become available by July.

Rural areas of the country will have a total of 50 million telecom subscribers this year by setting up 8,000 transmitting towers, and the overall telecom base of the country will reach 250 million by August from 206.83 million at present. The total telephony subscriber base (wireless and wireline) was 206.83 million at the end of the fiscal year, with an annual addition of 66.51 million subscribers during 2006-07.

The wireless services subscriber base at the end of March this year stood at 166.05 million as compared to 98.78 million in the same month last year, registering a growth of 68 per cent. According to figures released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the month added 3.53 million wireless subscribers as against 6.21 million subscribers in February this year.


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