Oslo: Norway’s Telenor denied on Saturday that its Indian subsidiary Uninor had won mobile phone licences in an irregular manner, the Norwegian news agency NTB reported.
India’s telecom regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has called for 38 mobile licences, including some held by Uninor, to be cancelled amid 2G spectrum allocation scandal that is shaking the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Trai said on Thursday that the licences were awarded too cheaply, and may have cost India a potential $31 billion. The accusations have led to the sacking of telecom minister Andimuthu Raja.
“We have now investigated how our licences were awarded and have not found any irregularities,” Telenor spokesman Glenn Mandelid told NTB.
Telenor had not yet established itself on the Indian mobile market when the licences were awarded in 2008. Later that year, it bought stakes in Unitech, which was awarded the permits. That firm is now called Uninor.
Mandelid said the award system in 2008 was not the same as today’s. “Indian authorities feared the telecom market would turn into a monopoly so they operated under a ‘first come first served’ principle,” he said.
“The award system was the same from 2000 to 2008 when Unitech got its licence. Since then they have gone over to an auction system.”
Telenor has about 13.5 million customers in the country’s highly competitive mobile market.
It has praised its strong market development in the third quarter but said its Indian operations would post an Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) loss of 4.5 billion crowns ($775 million) in 2010.