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Vodafone Idea: Incentives for fixed line connectivity should be extended to wireless connectivity too

In response to a supplementary consultation paper on incentivizing fixed line broadband, Vodafone Idea (Vi) said that such incentives should be technology agnostic and apply to wireless providers too. "5G would bring revolutionary changes and increase wireless broadband speeds thereby, further reducing dependency on fixed-line broadband networks even in urban areas," Vi said. This would only be true if price-per-GB goes down drastically on 5G networks; for some context, India has some of the cheapest mobile data tariffs in the world in 4G/LTE telecom networks, and there's still a huge price difference between fixed and wireless broadband, the former being much cheaper, where it is available. Vi's perspective on technology-agnostic license fee exemptions is not surprising — the telco, as well as its parent, have been presented with some of the most burdensome taxation and AGR licensing fee demands in the market, leading at times to questions on how the telco will stay solvent. Rs 50,400 crore is reportedly owed by Vi to the government over the coming decade. The Vodafone Group succeeded in quashing a similarly high demand in back taxes of Rs 22,100 crore; the government is challenging that decision. TRAI put out the supplementary consultation on May 19 after the Department of Telecommunications sent back a reference to the telecom regulator expressing concern that telecom players may use creative accounting to usurp benefits that they wouldn't by way of creative accounting, and suggested a regime where the incentive for fixed-line broadband is given directly to the customer,…

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