HomeNewsIndustry complains of government's partiality towards BSNL and MTNL

Industry complains of government’s partiality towards BSNL and MTNL

The DoT has asked Tata Docomo and RCom to stop offering non-voice 3G services, citing security concerns, while BSNL and MTNL have not been given any such direction.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) has asked Tata Docomo, Reliance Communications and other telcos to stop offering non-voice services citing security concerns.
Currently, the government does not have a system in place to intercept 3G services, which could jeopardise the nation’s security.
Last week, DoT had stopped these telcos from offering video calling services as these can be traced only a few minutes after they have ended. Intelligence agencies complain that such calls cannot be monitored live, and telcos agree that there is no technology at present for tapping video calls in real time.
However, it is interesting to note that the two state-owned telcos BSNL and MTNL have been offering non-voice 3G services including video calling since 2008, but no such direction has been given to them by the government. So why this partiality?
According to Mahesh Uppal, the director of ComFirst, “Without any additional explanation from the government, it does seem unfair that private telcos are being barred from offering video calling services; but BSNL and MTNL can go ahead with theirs.”
“Companies such as Reliance, Tata Docomo and Airtel compete with BSNL and MTNL, and it is important to treat all of them the same way in order to be and appear to be fair. It is also difficult to say whether the decision was taken too early or too late as we are not aware whether the specific security issues that require them to stop video calling were known to the government earlier or not,” he adds.”
Similarly, Anil Prakash, secretary general of the ITU-APT Foundation of India, says, “The government should also stop BSNL and MTNL from offering these services. Security concerns are there with public telcos too. It does not make sense that private operators should be stopped from offering these services while others continue to provide them. After all, nation’s security is of utmost importance.”
At present, Tata Docomo and Reliance Communications are the only private operators offering 3G services. The former launched 3G services in November, while the latter did so this month.
The largest telco, Airtel, has plans to roll out 3G services before the end of the year and others such as Vodafone, Aircel and Idea Cellular are going to launch these services within the first quarter of next year.
However, DoT’s new directives might derail these plans and the first mover advantage that Tata Indicom and RCom had might also get eroded.
While Tata and Reliance have agreed not to offer video calling services until the issue is resolved, Airtel meanwhile is awaiting security clearance for launching 3G services.
The telcos together paid Rs 67,000 crore to the government for 3G spectrum in May, and they also made enormous investments in rolling out infrastructure required for 3G services. If these services are not rolled out in time there are chances that this investment might go waste.
Similar concerns were earlier raised against BlackBerry handsets and telecom equipment being imported from countries such as China and Sweden.

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