Home > A.Raja, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Gurdas Kamat, MNRE, Sachin Pilot, Telecom and IT > Raja retains Telecom and IT, Dr Farooq Abdullah gets MNRE

Raja retains Telecom and IT, Dr Farooq Abdullah gets MNRE

May 28, 2009

Folks, these are portfolios of the key ministries in the government of India related to IT, telecommunications, semiconductors and solar energy, announced this evening by the Government of India.

* A. Raja: Minister of Communications and Information Technology
* Dr. Farooq Abdullah: Minister of New and Renewable Energy
* Gurdas Kamat: Minister of State in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology
* Sachin Pilot: Minister of State in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology

The fact the A. Raja continues with the telecom and IT ministry is a welcome sign of continuity! As per published reports, the auction for 3G networks is said to be a top priority for India’s telecom minister. About time that a date was set for 3G auction without delay!

What to expect from telecom, semicon and solar/PV
First, telecom, since it has been India’s success story for over a decade now! As at this point in time, India would stand to make revenues from the 3G auction.

According to a Times of India report: The interim budget has already factored in revenues of Rs 20,000 crore from 3G auctions, just half telecom minister A Raja’s projections of Rs 40,000 crore in August 2008. Average pan-India 3G spectrum is expected to rake in over Rs 4,000 crore. The government plans to auction 2×5 MHz of spectrum in varying proportions except Rajasthan and the North East.

The key focus should simultaneously be on semiconductors, solar photovoltaics and new and renewable energy. With a new minister coming in for NRE (new and renewable energy), there are going to be a lot of expectations.

The opportunities in the Indian solar/PV landscape simply cannot be overlooked at any cost or any further!

Don’t look further folks! Just read the US President, Barack Obama’s, remarks on renewable energy! That’s the kind of focus India needs as well!!

A recent SEMI India meet this April called for more action from the government of India, a more closer industry-government collaboration, as well as the need for financial institutions to pay more attention to the solar/PV segment in India.

All of these need to be addressed at top priority! Perhaps, the Union Ministry for Power should be part of this exercise as well. All it needs to do is to look at the benefits of solar/PV in off-grid applications, such as basic lighting and electrification of rural homes, irrigation pump sets running on solar, and urban applications — such as street lighting, etc.

The Telecom ministry should also consider solar for power back-up for cellular base station towers. Approximately, there will be 2.9 lakh base station towers by the end of 2009. Maybe, having solar in some place, will surely go a long way in saving some power for the country!

Therefore, these ministries would need to work hand in hand!

Finally, semiconductors! What’s really happening with the semiconductor policy? If there are proposals that need to be cleared and passed, and projects need to be started thereafter, those should be cleared and implemented at the earliest possible instance. I believe there are several such proposals. India cannot afford to lose time, now that it has a stable Central government in place.

Next, do look at how the governments of China and Taiwan, as two examples, back their home grown semiconductor industries. A similar effort would be needed here. And let’s not get involved in the fabs vs. fabless debate. There is a definite need to rethink on India’s semiconductor fab strategy — whatever that is going to be in future!

S. Janakiraman, former chairman, India Semiconductor Association (ISA), had told me a few months ago that a fab will be fundamental for India to gain leadership and self reliance. “It cannot be ignored totally, although we can take our own time to reach there. We don’t have a choice other than paying a price to reach there, now or later!”

Yet another aspect that needs to be looked into is to find a way to incubate semiconductor product development companies in India.

Am sure that, besides these points, there are several other things that the leaders of the Indian semiconductor, solar/PV and telecom sectors have in mind. For now, let us welcome our new Union ministers and wish them the best of luck!

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