Finance minister Arun Jaitley has set a revenue target of Rs 98,994.93 crore for the telecom ministry (through communication services) in Budget 2016. This includes proceeds from spectrum auction and other fees levied by the Department of Telecom (DoT).
Prasad, however, declined any comment on spectrum pricing.
Prasad highlighted that the industry has seen the highest foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow in the last five years, improved transparency in spectrum auction and consistently grown mobile manufacturing, which has reached 10 crore units in 2015 against 50 lakh in 2014 and about five lakh in 2013.
In an interview to CNBC-TV18’s Shereen Bhan, Ravishankar Prasad gave his take on Arun Jaitley’s Union Budget and his outlook on the road ahead.
Q: How will Budget impact telecom sector?
A: As far as provisioning is concerned you know it very well that the spectrum auction has become quite transparent now. The building from where I am talking to, Sanchar Bhawan you know it very well, was in the news for all the wrong reasons. And now all the policy decisions are being taken in a fair and transparent manner. Telecom sector is rising very fast. We are the highest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the last five years. Tele density has risen. It has reached to 100 crore in mobile connectivity only. I am happy to tell you that mobile manufacturing in India has reached 10 crore in the year 2015 against 50 lakh in 2014 and about 5 lakh in 2013. That is how the whole scenario is about.
So, we hope to mop up good resources, that is a roadmap is there. Let the auction take place, there is all license fee is there, gross revenue chart is there. We are quite sure that we would be able to mop up that resource.
Q: So, you feel confident that you will be able to achieve Rs 98,000 crore because as far as the spectrum auction itself is concerned the response or the feedback from the private sector hasn’t been encouraging. They feel that the reserve price as is been articulated by the government is very steeper but do you feel confident about being able to achieve this number?
A: First of all I should not make any comment upon Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) recommendations. We are considering it ourselves. What I simply see is that our telecom sector is a very booming sector. With Digital India coming about telecom 4G is coming into operations and the large network of optical fibre which we are linking in the entire country 250,000 gram panchayat I see every profound and promising growth in that entire telecom sector. Therefore I don’t see a problem at all. It would not be prudent on my part to make any comment as to what shall be the price of the spectrum because that is a matter of detail to be done in a proper structured manner that the telecom commission, me and the cabinet, that is how I see it. Yes, I am quite hopeful of raising that is all I can tell you.
Regarding the feedback of some of the friends we will talk to them. I always have great word of appreciation for the mobile operators who have brought mobile to the nook and corner of the country. We have to work together, but I always say in a lighter vein that I will become the most popular telecom minister if I give a spectrum for free which I don\’t think I need to do and you will also not advice me that.
Q: By when can we expect or what kind of timeline can we expect as far as the auction is concerned and finally what would be the big priority that you are going to focus on given the Budget and given the digital India priority as well?
A: As far as the auction timeline is concerned I will have one to one interview with you separately for that after I firm it up. Today is a Budget day, let us concentrate on the Budget but as regards my initiative arising out of the Budget announcement is concerned Digital India I am going to give a very big push. Electronic manufacturing I am going to give a very big push. India has already become an important place for electronic manufacturing.
I am just going to come with a payment bank of the postal department and let me tell you just in principle approval we have got 60 national-international consortium keen to partner with payment bank of the postal department. My BPO scheme in rural areas we are going to launch very soon, is going to give a further boost to Digital India and also employment. Therefore a lot of things are lined up.
Let me tell you electronics, digitisation, postal, telecommunication and IT exports all are going to give a big fillip to the overall growth of India as a big economic destination.