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Telecom sector continues to be highly taxed: Sunil Mittal

Telecom levies are as high as 37 per cent.

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MUMBAI: Speaking at India Mobile Congress 2018, Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal said telecom sector continues to be highly-taxed just like the tobacco industry. He also urged that the issue of high levy needs to be resolved and mentioned it as a deterrent to PM Narendra Modi’s digital India vision. He also added that the industry is a heavy capital-intensive industry, requires laying of fibre and heavy investment in networks.

“Telecom levies are as high as 37 per cent. Spectrum fee and licence fee are very high coupled with GST at 18 per cent,” said Mittal.

However, he thanked Telecom minister Manoj Sinha and secretary Aruna Sundararajan for the new telecom policy, NDCP 2018, as it includes all important elements. But he also mentioned that the policy clearly acknowledges that revenue maximisation is not the objective.

"There is also one overarching objective of previous policy and also enshrined in NDCP that revenue maximisation is not the objective...Then why operators and Department of Telecom are under litigation for revenue maximisation," Mittal added.

He also spoke about the consolidations happening in telecom sector across the world. The consolidation process hasn’t happened in an orderly way in India other than the Vodafone-Idea merger.

“India's (telecom sector) consolidation hasn't happened in an orderly fashion with $59 billion wiped off, although the merger of Vodafone and Idea has happened and we are happy with that,” Mittal commented.

Explaining the consolidation trends in other countries, he mentioned China and the US. While the upcoming merger of T-Mobile and Sprint would lead to three telecom players in the US, China is also moving towards a two-player market.

While he believes India is not lagging behind in adopting 5G technology, he urged the government to come up with consultations on making fibre a national asset.

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