Somewhere along the past decade, USOF India has lost its way and we have come back full circle to thinking of relying on roll out obligations to achieve desired levels of rural teledensity. The proposition of Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that future spectrum auctions be designed to include rural roll out obligations (as per a news item in Economic Times
) displays a complete lack of appreciation of the concept of USFs and the failure of roll out obligations in the past. All we will achieve is distortions in the spectrum allocation process.
How exactly are the operators to find funds to fulfill the mandatory roll out obligations in areas which are obviously not commercially viable? Were they waiting only for a diktat from DoT all this while? What if they bid lower for spectrum to compensate for this additional cost and then circumvent roll out as in the past? Why should only spectrum winners (of this future auction) be considered as prospective suppliers of services to meet the gap?Well designed USOF
schemes can provide the required (financial) incentive to any operator without creating unnecessary market distortions. This thinking by DoT is perhaps indicative of the inability of USOF India to fulfill its mandate and this malady has been the subject matter of many of my previous posts.