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“With a rural tele-density of just over 40 per cent, there are millions of people in our rural economy whose lives still remain untouched by the telecom revolution. And this is a challenge that should worry all of us,” he said.
Dr Singh was speaking at the India Telecom 2013 conference organised by the industry lobby body FICCI and the Indian Ministry of Telecom in New Delhi.
The prime minister pointed out that India needs to bridge the rural-urban telecommunications divide.
“India needs to develop a strong domestic manufacturing base in electronics and telecommunication. It is estimated that by 2020 India will be importing electronics product worth $300 billion, which will be more than the value of our oil imports,” said Dr Singh.
“We need to act now to avoid a situation where we face difficulties in financing these imports. India should have manufacturing facilities which result in a balanced trade in electronics products and are part of global supply change,” added the Indian prime minister.
He also said recent measures like raising the foreign direct investment limit in the telecom sector from 74 per cent to 100 per cent would add impetus to investment in the critical sector for India.
India is the world’s second-biggest mobile phone market by subscribers.
Global telecom firms like Vodafone have recently said the country’s regulatory environment was gradually improving.
“This time I can say that I am more positive about the environment than before,” Marten Pieters, CEO of Vodafone India said last month.
Vodafone on Thursday announced plans to invest $3 billion in the next two years that will be deployed for network expansion in India’s rural areas.
Vodafone global CEO Vittorio Colao met Indian Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram yesterday.
“First, India has an opportunity for growth because of population and other factors. We will be long-term players. I am happy we are here for long-term investment. I am not here for four years but for 20 years and more,” Colao said.