Bharti Enterprises Chairman Sunil Mittal today sought to relax the spectrum holding limit of 25 per cent as some of the operators have 35-40 per cent market share but have to operate at a lower level due to capping.
“The Department of Telecom and Trai have been reviewing the process. My own view is 50 per cent in-band spectrum cap, I think is a good check to have because nobody wants to have entire spectrum in one operator hands that takes away competition, ecosystem,” Mittal said here.
He, however, said “the overall cap of 25 per cent needs relaxation as there are operators that have 35-40 per cent market share and operating at a lower level. You should liberally look at the spectrum cap issue,” he said at an event, where Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was also present.
The spectrum cap, the limit of radiowaves a telecom operator can hold for providing wireless services, is 50 per cent in a spectrum band identified fit for transmitting mobile signals and 25 per cent of the total such spectrum assigned in a telecom circle.
In the consultation paper for spectrum auction of seven bands, Trai has sought comments if a cap on the spectrum holding within all bands in sub-1 GHz frequencies be specified and in such a case, should the existing provision of band specific cap (50 per cent of total spectrum assigned in a band) be done away with.
Mittal also sought to accelerate the process for discovering a reserve price for spectrum and put in into auction.
“The way data is growing, we need more spectrum and I am glad that on your request Trai has come out with a consultation paper in terms of putting out recommendations to you,” Mittal said.
Regarding spectrum trading guidelines, Mittal said he was a votary of free trading of spectrum as it was bought in auction. However, the last trading deal announced has made his case extremely weak as the deal price was much higher than the auction discovered price.
“Therefore, the middle ground could be spectrum price discovered in auction should be the base on which the government should charge but in case of any windfall gains, a substantial portion must be shared with the government,” Mittal said.
He further said spectrum profiting must be discouraged but trading should be encouraged.
“We together need to commit to all users, the government, the regulator… we will make it work despite some difficulties we face. I think it’s our job to overcome those difficulities… On behalf of the industry, I can say we are on a daily basis getting better but more needs to be done and we would do it,” he said.
On Airtel’s Rs 60,000 crore investment plans, he said this is a hardcore capital expenditure on fibre, cables and changing older networks.
“This year is the largest capex year for Airtel, we will be spending about Rs 16,000 crore on network,” Mittal said.
Praising Prasad for focussing on a host of issues that were dodging the telecom sector for long, Mittal said, “… you have in a short period of time taken care of some of these vital issues facing the industry.”
“Within few months of your taking over, we have spectrum trading and sharing,” he told Prasad.
On call drop issue, he said the Minister has always supported the industry by allaying fears among the public regarding radiation.