Following is the text of Prime Minister,
Dr. Manmohan Singh’s address at the Inaugural Session of India Telecom
2012 in New Delhi today:
The India Telecom series of conferences
enables our government, our industry and other stakeholders to come
together to deliberate on issues relating to a sector which is of
critical importance to our economy and our country. I compliment Shri
Kapil Sibal, the Department of Telecommunications and FICCI for jointly
organizing these events of great significance to the future of our
country. I also wish all the participants very productive and useful
discussions in India Telecom 2012.
The Indian telecom sector has seen
phenomenal growth over the past decade or so. With around 96.5 crore
telephone connections, India, today, is the second largest telecom
market in the world as a whole. The telecom sector has also been the
driver of Foreign Direct Investment and FII flows into our country. It
has contributed in a major way to the dynamism of our economy.
As you all know, this sector has had to
face some tough challenges in the past months. However, I believe that
under the distinguished leadership of Shri Kapil Sibal, the period of
difficulties is now coming to an end. During the last one year, our
government has taken a number of forward looking initiatives in the
telecom sector. We have announced the New Telecom Policy 2012. We have
attempted to clarify the policy positions on a number of complex issues.
We have attempted to ensure adequate availability of spectrum and its
allocation in a transparent manner through market-related processes. I
am confident that the futuristic policy regime that we are now putting
in place will address, and address effectively, the concerns that have
been worrying investors and will provide a new impetus to the growth of
telecommunication industry in our country.
I am sure that the deliberations in this
conference will cover the entire gamut of difficult issues in the
telecom sector that we need to resolve. On my part I would like to
confine myself to flagging three broad aspects which should guide our
efforts in telecommunications in years to come.
The first issue is the penetration of
basic telecom services in our rural economy. The exponential growth of
the telecom sector has been primarily driven by growth in the use of
telephones in urban areas. The full potential of telecommunications in
enabling higher growth will not be realised until the use of telephones
spreads much wider in the rural economy of India as well. While urban
India has today reached a teledensity of 169 percent, the teledensity in
rural India stands at only 41 percent. Not only this, the bulk of the 59
percent people who do not use phones in rural areas is perhaps from the
socially and economically backward sections of our society.
We must address this rural-urban divide if
we have to achieve our goal of socially inclusive growth. Today, network
coverage is there in most parts of our country and the bulk of the
population is already covered. It is possible that there are economic or
other barriers preventing the spread of telephone usage. There is also
an economic case for investing in business at the bottom of the pyramid.
I urge industry, which has shown great innovation in the telecom sector,
to come up with strategies to expand teledensity in rural areas. I also
urge the Department of Telecommunications to think big and think
creatively to see how the resources available to it, either through the
USO Fund or otherwise, are better used to achieve this purpose. We
cannot and we should not have an India where lack of a phone is a
hindrance to inclusive growth. The New Telecom Policy-2012 envisages 70
percent rural penetration by 2017 and 100 percent by 2020. We should all
work together to achieve these targets and in fact do better than what
we have promised.
The second issue that I wish to highlight
is the availability of broadband services. Broadband improves the lives
of people by providing affordable access to information and knowledge.
Many Information and Communication Technology applications such as
e-commerce, e-banking, e-governance, e-education and telemedicine
require high speed Internet connectivity. Studies show that there is a
direct correlation between an increase in broadband connectivity and
growth in a country’s GDP.
The advent of smart phones and tablets at
reasonable prices along with wide availability of telecom infrastructure
across our country would provide an opportunity for us to ensure an
equitable spread of broadband services. We must, therefore, seize this
opportunity. Recognizing the significance of broadband connectivity as a
tool for empowering our rural masses, our government has launched the
National Optical Fiber Network project to provide broadband connectivity
to all our Panchayats. I am confident that this unique project will
usher a new era in telecommunications by establishing information
highways across the whole length and breadth of our country,
particularly in rural areas. I would urge all government departments and
the private sector to work creatively to ensure that this infrastructure
is efficiently used to make broadband services truly affordable and
I would also like to reflect on the
thinning down of our domestic manufacturing capabilities in telecom in
particular and in electronics in general over the past two decades. We
need to strengthen our domestic manufacturing capabilities across the
entire value chain in telecom and electronics. The new Telecom and
Electronics Policies lay down the regime for enabling this to happen.
Now it is for the captains of our industry, particularly in the private
sector that they have to seize this unique initiative. As a major
automobile buying country, we have developed a strong automotive sector.
I believe this can be and must be replicated in telecom and electronics
as well. We need leaders in telecom and electronics manufacturing who
can break new ground and create the ecosystems to enable India to be a
major producer of hardware. Our government is committed to doing
everything possible to support such efforts.
The telecom revolution offers myriad
opportunities for accelerating our nation’s development march. I
sincerely hope you will explore all these possibilities in your
deliberations. I wish you all success in your noble endeavors.