INR 5000 Cr. Towards Free Cell Phones to 50 Million Poor Families

INR 5,000 crore from the Universal Services Obligation fund has been seeked-out by Mobile handset makers towards providing free of cost cellular phone and a connection to families below poverty line.

At present, support from the USO fund is being given only to telecom operators. Indian Cellular Association (ICA) the industry association representing handset makers including Nokia and Sony Ericsson, suggested that support should be given directly to consumers to make it more effective in achieving the objective of reaching communication services to the rural areas. In addition to the USO subsidy, handset manufacturers have sought abolition of value added tax of 4 per cent which would enable them to bring down the cost of handset to under INR 1,500. ICA further suggested that along with a free calling package bundled with handset, skills mapping of these families should be done at the time of providing the connection.