Private sector telecom operators may get a revenue boost of Rs 1.5 lakh crore by 2020 if the government approves the proposals made by the telecom regulator on the implementation of the national broadband project BharatNet.
However, operators are wary of the major challenges over right of way (RoW) to instal cables. They want the issues to be addressed by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) beofre they participate in the project "actively".
"If TRAI's (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) recommendations are implemented, and the government ensures free RoW to private sector participants, as suggested by the telecom regulator, the revenue potential from broadband services could attain very significant levels by 2020, and be in the Rs 1-1.5 lakh crore range," Broadband India Forum (BIF) president TV Ramachandran told The Economic Times.
The forum represents telecom players such as Airtel, Vodafone, Telenor, RCom, Qualcomm, Ericsson, Intel, Marvell, UTStarcom and BSNL.
The revenue boost could be significant upon the removal of RoW, as it is the biggest impediment and most expensive part of setting up an optical fibre network across the country, said Hemant Joshi, partner at Deloitte, Haskins & Sells.
"If the RoW challenge is addressed, BharatNet as India's principal broadband backbone, can be a potential GDP (gross domestic product) multiplier, equivalent to 2-4 times the $18 billion that is proposed to be invested in the Digital India project," Joshi told the daily.
Joshi added BharatNet has the potential to increase India's GDP growth by $36-72 billion in the coming years.
TRAI had recently said private telcos see RoW as a significant risk, while submitting a list of recommendations to DoT on expediting the Rs 74,000-crore BharatNet project.
The regulator had urged DoT to clear the path for "a guaranteed provision of free RoW as a necessary and non-negotiable precondition for successful deployment of the national broadband project".
BharatNet is primarily aimed at providing government services to the common man under the Digital India initiative. But the cost of implementation of the project has seen a threefold increase to Rs 74,000 crore due to delays in meeting deadlines over the past three years.
"We need clarity on who bears end-to-end responsibility for connectivity for quality of service and service-level agreements," said Rajan Mathews, director-general of the Cellular Operators Association.