Telecom companies are not letting up on their campaign against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's proposed terms for the resale of airwaves to be vacated under a 2 February Supreme Court order.
At a joint media briefing in New Delhi, the chief executives of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Telenor-owned Uninor and Videocon said TRAI's proposals could raise user tariffs by 100 per cent; adding that they could sound the "death-knell" for one of India's showcase industries.
The media conference came a day after top executives of India's leading telecom service providers met senior officials in the government, including finance minister Pranab Mukherjee; and a few days after five of the country's leading telecom service providers shot off a letter to the government warning of a steep hike in tariffs if the TRAI proposals on minimum bid price are accepted.
"There will be an almost 100 per cent hike in tariffs if the current recommendations of TRAI are implemented, and the affordability of telecom services will be severely impacted. It will also result in network losses in thousands of villages," Sanjay Kapoor, Airtel's chief executive officer for India and South Asia, said.
In their earlier letter, the companies had urged telecom minister Kapil Sibal not to accept TRAI's recommendations. They said the minimum bidding price should be reduced by about 80 per cent. They also objected to the piecemeal auction of airwaves – TRAI has said that only 5Mhz of the freed spectrum be sold at a time; with the process of selling the 18 MHz of spectrum to be vacated under the apex court's order to extend over a couple of years.
"This will result in prolonged litigations and disputes in the sector and huge amount of job loss. Do we understand what we are doing? According to the NTP (National Telecom Policy) 2012, revenue generation is not paramount for the government. For whom are we making these recommendations? I am afraid the basic principle of NTP-2012 is not being held in right spirit," Kapoor said.