Telecom services have grown in leaps and bounds becoming "a basic requirement in list of essentials" but the path ahead is fraught with "challenges" for the industry, which is capital-intensive and requires continuous investments, Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash said.

Prakash asked the industry to rise to the challenges of improving connectivity in rural areas, which has shown "huge appetite for data".

He exhorted the industry to drive a larger mesh of wireline communications and wireline broadband, enhance tower density and fiberisation, and aid the proliferation of fibre-to-the-home connections.

Prakash said India needs to prepare, invest and be ready for reaping the benefits of 5G technology opportunities and applications across sectors including including health, education, agriculture, disaster management, industry, and commerce.

He said mobile phones have become vital and central in people's lives, and added that from being an alternative to fixed line voice communication, mobile phones have now become backbone of e-governance, e-commerce and value-added services.

India also requires larger network of wireline communication and wireline broadband, he said. "The tower density has to be majorly enhanced. Fiber used per capita must increase. Towers need to be fiberized, and fibre-to-the-home connections and internet leased line communications should proliferate," he said.

Noting that rural areas have shown a huge appetite for data communications, the telecom secretary said such locations require better telecom connectivity.

Reforms in telecom policy will have an impact for the industry, he said noting that the telecom policy evolved from 1994, 1999, 2012 and 2018, right to the national digital communications policy which is "futuristic".

He expressed confidence that active efforts of stakeholders will ensure that the telecom sector in India emerges stronger and meets expectation and aspirations of propelling India to a higher trajectory of growth.

"Mobiles today are, without doubt, a necessity, they are basic requirement in list of essentials. Water, food, fresh air, followed access to and availability of mobile phones and smartphone coverage," he said.

He added that internet and broadband revolution rides on telecom network, and smartphones are our link to the world.

Speaking on the occasion, COAI Director General S P Kochhar said that while the last 25 years have about connecting India, the next 25 would be all about transforming the country.

He added that the past 25 years have been busy in connecting India and the next 25 years would be about transforming India.

Telecom secy asks industry to strengthen rural connectivity