New Delhi: Bharti Airtel Ltd led a sharp attack on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s recommendations on spectrum management and licensing, calling them “shocking, arbitrary and retrograde”.
The suggestions punish efficient operators and are designed to benefit select operators, Bharti said in a release on Wednesday, in its first open criticism of any regulator or government agency.
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“They overturn all existing policies of DoT (department of telecommunications) for the last 15 years, recommendations made by various government committees and even Trai’s own earlier recommendations,” the company said. “Besides, these are against all existing global norms for spectrum allocation and efficiency.”
Bharti said that operators like itself had over the years provided users with some of the cheapest tariffs in the world and connected 85% of India’s population, including 440,000 villages.
“We have invested over Rs70,000 crore to build networks and services and have contributed thousand of crores to the exchequer in form of licence, spectrum fee and other levies,” it said. “In terms of spectrum charges, we have contributed up to 10 times more per MHz than many other operators.”
Agreeing with Bharti, Vodafone Essar Ltd also expressed disappointment at the recommendations in a separate statement and said that “the Trai recommendations have cherry-picked dozens of incompatible elements and resulted in a set of proposals which are opaque, illogical and discriminatory”.
“The authorities have allowed too many players in this market already and are now making the situation worse by overcharging established players and raising additional barriers to consolidation,” Marten Pieters, chief executive officer and managing director of Vodafone Essar, said. “Further deterioration of this important high-tech industry that has done so much for the country in the last 10 years is in no one’s interest.”
Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Communications Ltd (R-Com) welcomed the recommendations saying they were consumer-centric, while Tata Teleservices said the recommendations on 2G spectrum have not addressed inequalities in spectrum allocation.
The “recommendations would lead to spectrum efficiency and rural penetration. The government will be able to release additional spectrum,” Syed Safawi, chief executive, wireless business, R-Com, said in a conference call.
Incumbent operators may have to pay for the excess spectrum beyond 6.2MHz, which could cost up to Rs10,000 crore, he said. R-Com, which offers both GSM and CDMA services, does not have to pay much for excess spectrum, he said.
Tata Teleservices has been waiting for 2G spectrum allocation in Delhi and many other key Indian cities for more than 30 months, it said in a statement.
“The recommendations, instead of recognizing our status as a dual-technology UASL (universal access service licence) holder, has rather pushed us further behind in the queue, as it now proposes to award the spectrum first to those players who already have 4.4MHz to 6.2MHz and then to those who have been waiting.”
(‘PTI’ contributed to the story.)
Graphic by Paras Jain / Mint