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April 10, 1999


Project Carving a commercial unit out of the Department of Telecommunications is easy... on paper. The Department of Telecommunications may scrap the idea of setting up a Telecom Services Board.

The board is to take on the operations activity of the proposed Department of Telecommunications Services.

Email this story to a friend. DoT sources have been quoted as saying that there is resistance to the creation of the board because a steering group of the Telecom Commission has sought sweeping powers for it.

The board is supposed to be set up to ease the transition of the government's Department of Telecommunications into a corporate entity.

The government wants to separate DoT's service providing functions from the licensing and policy functions. This has been clearly spelt out in the new telecom policy.

Under such an arrangement, operating aspects are to be looked after by the board that would work in the ambit of Department of Telecom Services.

However, sources say that DoT may finally recommend setting up of only the Department of Telecom Services and drop the proposal to set up Telecom Services Board.

The Telecom Commission's steering group has recommended wide-ranging powers to the Telecom Services Board. These including fixation and modification of tariff and issues concerning revenue sharing and interconnect arrangement.

The board was also proposed to have organisations such the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, Telecommunication Consultant India Limited and Centre for Development of Telematics under its control.

The steering group recommended that the Telecom Commission, under its financial functions, will deal with tariff policy and all financial cases related to licensing.

The Telecom Services Board is also proposed to have the same administrative and financial powers as the existing Telecom Commission.

However, the steering group envisages that there will be no dilution of powers of Telecom Commission after formation of Telecom Services Board.

The steering group was constituted to work out the constitution and functions of the Telecom Services Board and chalk out the role of the Telecom Commission under the new scenario.

The board is to implement and execute the interconnect agreement with other operators and interact with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on operational matters.

Interestingly, the steering group recommends that the Telecom Commission will continue to interact with the TRAI on regulations.

The steering group says that the Industrial Training Institutes and Hindustan Telecommunication Limited would continue to remain under the Telecom Commission.

The board is to also have an overall control of telecom factories.

The steering group has recommended splitting up of the Telecom Evaluation Committee into two units: the Telecom Standards Centre, to be placed under the TC, and Telecom Engineering Centre, to be placed under Telecom Services Board.

The board's other proposed powers included preparing five-year plans, annual development plans and budgeting besides specifying standards for telecom equipment, network management, inspection and quality assurance. It will also be expected to oversee international relations on all issues related to telecom operations.

The Telecom Commission will thereafter deal with issues relating to the formulation of national telecom policy, licensing functions related to the Telegraph Authority, interconnection policy for basic, cellular and other operators.

The commission will process applications for industrial licences, foreign collaborations and import of capital goods among other things.

Monitoring of Wireless Planning Commission and spectrum management are in the Telecom Commission's ambit.

The Telecom Commission will also set out policy guidelines relating to land procurement and construction and contract policy.

Functional linkages between the Telecom Commission and the Telecom Services Board would include policy-related interactions, licensing and allied issues, cadre control / personnel policy matters, technology absorption and upgradation, budget and accounting compilation and presentation, production planning of telecom equipment, resource mobilisation and frequency management.

The funding of the Department of Telecom Services will be through its own internal resources and market borrowings through public sector undertakings under its control.

The public sector undertaking under DoT / DTS will continue to fund themselves through a combination of internal resources, market borrowings and budgetary support.

However, the budgets of WPC, TRAI and the secretariat are to be funded by the ministry of finance.

Relations with all international organisations and fora are to be brought under one umbrella in the DTS and DoT.

The Telecom Commission will retain the activities related to International Telecom Union.

- Compiled from the Indian media

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