New Delhi: Stung by the criticism of Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh, Bharti Airtel chief Sunil Mittal said on 8 November his demand for creating a level playing field among private and public sector firms in allocating spectrum for mobile operations was being misunderstood.
Responding to Ramesh’s comments that slammed him for castigating state-run firms BSNL and MTNL, Mittal denied criticising the companies and said he only opposed the report of Telecom Engineering Centre that recommended a spectrum allocation criteria “unheard of anywhere in the world”.
“You have picked up the wrong interpretation of my letter (to Department of Telecom secretary D S Mathur) through the newspapers... My letter does not castigate BSNL nor MTNL,” Mittal said in a separate letter to Ramesh.
The telecom czar, however, asserted that BSNL and MTNL have been granted more spectrum than the private sector and in excess of the entitlement under government policy. Moreover, the two PSUs have less customers than the private sector and granting them additional airwaves means jumping the queue.
“We are delighted that BSNL and MTNL have been given more spectrum as we support the same, but only demand that to be the same for the private sector and thereby level playing field,” he said.
Mittal, who heads the country’s biggest mobile operator Bharti Airtel, agreed that public sector firms face many constraints and are not free to run efficient operations.
“I, however, resent your charge that we are lobbying to block competition... We are always willing to face any competition, including from some very powerful competitors and many times with our hands tied behind our back,” he added.