Investments in the telecom sector will touch Rs68,000 crore ($10 billion) this fiscal year, according to telecom secretary J S Deepak – a 669 per cent increase from the $1.3 billion clocked in FY16, due mainly to numerous policy reforms undertaken this fiscal.
Among the priorities for 2017 is to ensure a level playing field for operators while fostering competition, which will benefit the end consumer, The Economic Times quoted the official as saying in an interview.
Despite the ongoing severe price war between the Mukesh Ambani entity Reliance Jio and incumbant operators, Deepak was positive about the sector, saying the department's efforts would be focused on ensuring best technology is available to India at affordable prices.
The entry of Reliance Jio Infocomm has resulted in a bitter battle both in and off the market with India's largest telcos like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and idea Cellular alleging bias against them and in favour of the newcomer.
''The reforms and the ease of business which we have brought into the sector this year has led to an increase in business confidence and trust in the sector. It has led to $8 billion in FDI in the sector so far compared to $1. 3 billion last year and we expect this to become at least $10 billion by the end of the financial year,'' Deepak said.
He added that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) expects additional investments to come from virtual network operators (VNOs) and in the infrastructure (towers) segment.
The bulk of the foreign direct investment so far has come through the $7 billion equity infusion announced by British telecom major Vodafone Plc into its Indian subsidiary earlier this year at a time the telecom sector is witnessing hyper competition with the entry of Jio.
Speaking about the next round of auctions in 2017, Deepak said the DoT will look to auction all the spectrum left unsold in the last sale, including in the coveted 700 MHz band, and will send a reference back to the Telecom regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for pricing.
The department is also exploring the possibility of roping in private telecom operators for laying of optic fibre network across the next 150,000 gram panchayats as part of the BharatNet project, he said.