Bharti Airtel Chairman and Managing Director Sunil Bharti Mittal, Vodafone Plc CEO Vittorio Colao, Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas and Idea Cellular Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla on Wednesday met ministers and senior government officials to present the industry's concerns over telecom regulator Trai's proposals on the auction of spectrum.
The telco chiefs first met Home Minister P Chidambaram and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, which was followed by meetings with Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Communications Minister Kapil Sibal. They also met Pulok Chatterji, Principal Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, and Department of Telecommunications (DoT) Secretary.
R Chandrashekhar. After the meeting with Chandrashekhar, Mittal said, "This has been the most destructive period of regulatory environment I have seen in 16 years." He said Trai's recommendations would be "catastrophic" for the entire telecom sector.
Mittal, in a statement, also said, "The recent regulatory developments in India will have significant implications on the future of telephony and broadband, as well as India's global competitiveness. The entire industry looks to the government for a fair, transparent and sustainable telecom regime."
The industry has been up in arms against Trai's proposals, including a reserve price of Rs 3,622 crore (Rs 36.22 billion) per MHz in the 1,800-MHz band. The telcos have said if the proposals are accepted, mobile tariffs would rise 25-30 per cent.
Birla said the regulator's proposals would kill the industry and it made no sense for anyone to participate in the spectrum auction at the proposed price levels.
Telenor, in a statement, said Baksaas, together with CEOs of other Indian mobile operators, met stakeholders in the Indian government with an objective to bring to its attention the disastrous impact of the recommendations on the ability to continue operations. It said the auction recommendations were not in line with the orders of the Supreme Court.
Baksaas said, "It is the government alone that carries political responsibility and therefore the final say on policy. We urge the Indian government to take its rightful political initiative now. This is the time to ensure the policy made for the telecom licence auctions allows affordability, competition and investments to remain in India."
"India must remain an attractive destination for all foreign investors across industries, not only because of the growth potential it indeed offers, but also its predictable, logical and investor-friendly policy environment," he added.
"If these recommendations become policy, then the government of India will be forcing Telenor Group to exit. It will be almost impossible for us to participate in the upcoming auctions," Telenor Group Executive Vice-President Sigve Brekke had said recently.
Sibal said the industry had put forth its concern on Trai's recommendations and the government would look into it.
In a related development, CDMA operators' association AUSPI wrote a letter to Sibal, saying Trai should have restricted itself to the mandate given by the Supreme Court to give recommendations only for the auction of spectrum vacated from cancelled licencees.
The CEOs of all telecom operators, including Aircel, Idea, Vodafone, Airtel and Videocon, among others, will hold a conference tomorrow. Today, the telco chiefs also met members of the Empowered Group of Ministers that would take the final call on the rules for spectrum auctions.