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Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Wednesday assured the sector of more reforms in offing but made it amply clear that the industry too will have to do its bit and reciprocate by improving telecom service quality "significantly".

He indicated that service quality parameters could be made more stringent and tighter, possibly to the extent of 3-4 times, and that the Telecom Department will approach the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in this regard.

The Minister cited the slew of reforms in the telecom sector and those being lined up to send out a strong and firm message that initiatives cannot be one-sided, and the equation has to be "reciprocal".

"You can't clap with only one hand, both hands are needed. It cannot be that just we keep doing, what you ask. You also have to do, what we ask," he said.

The comment assumes significance as improvement in telecom service quality is bound to cheer mobile customers, irked by call drops and patchy networks.

"I will be requesting the Department (Telecom Department) to send a new consultation paper to TRAI for significantly increasing the quality of service parameters almost making 3X or 4X of what it is today, so whatever is the quality of service we are seeing, should now improve significantly," Vaishnaw said at an event organised by Digital Infrastructure Providers Association (DIPA).

The minister exhorted the industry including telecom operators and infrastructure providers to move "full steam ahead" on improving quality of services in the country, now that a slew of reforms have been announced and more are being proposed.

The minister promised that the journey of 5G will be "exciting" and noted that the government has given a target of 80 per cent coverage in "a short timeframe" to the industry.

"While many countries took multiple years to reach 40-50 per cent coverage, we are targeting a very aggressive timeline. We should definitely cover at least 80 per cent in a very short time frame," he said.

Vaishnaw said that the industry will revert with its internal workings on coverage targets and timelines "very soon".

"Hopefully, we should be able to make a difference in common citizens' life by providing good high-quality digital services," he said.

Put simply, the fifth-generation or 5G services promise dramatically improved speeds and lag-free videos, where applications would range from connected ambulances to cloud gaming and even augmented reality driven tryouts for shoppers. 5G would allow downloading full-length high-quality video or movie to mobile and other devices in a matter of seconds (even in crowded areas, or at mega events) and support a million devices in a square kilometre.

The minister assured that the government's approach will be that of a partner to the industry. As it is, the Centre has moved swiftly on ironing out industry's issues and simplifying processes. Streamlined processes around telecom tower permissions is a case in point, he said.

The minister mentioned upcoming initiatives including legal backing for Right of Way and licencing reforms and said the government is "game for" suggestions on progressive initiatives. The next big reform will be around Telecom Bill, and its draft will be placed for public consultation by end of next week, he said.

Telecom Bill will provide legal backing to Right of Way actions, providing an enabling framework for reducing timelines for approvals and mooting remedies for damage to fibres and towers, he informed.

He said under the Railway land lease policy, charges have been fixed for optical fibres crossing from below railway track and costs have been rationalised. With this reform, the costs have been pegged at 1,000, and not linked to the value of the land, while approval processes will be simple and fast (within a week).

At the same time, Vaishnaw made it amply clear that while the government has introduced a wave of major reforms in the sector, telecom service providers and infrastructure players now need to focus and prioritise the quality of service at their end.

"Now that we have given so much by way of reforms, the telecom service providers should increase their quality of service significantly," he emphasised.

Vaishnaw said that field officers have been instructed to keep a check in the quality of services and pull up telecom operators where the service quality is not up to the mark.

On power consumption in telecom towers, he asked the industry to find sustainable solutions entailing renewable energy or green hydrogen, in order to reduce the carbon footprint.

With the inputs from PTI

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