scorecardresearch

Predatory pricing: ‘See you in court’ – Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal to TRAI

With Mittal’s statement, the contours have become clear: Incumbent operators will individually challenge the order while the Cellular Operators Association of India will also challenge it as an industry association.

airtel, sunil mittal, TRAI, COAI, Bharti airtel
Sunil Mittal, chairman of the country’s largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel, said on Wednesday that the company has no choice but to challenge the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) latest regulation on predatory pricing in a court of law. (Reuters)

Sunil Mittal, chairman of the country’s largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel, said on Wednesday that the company has no choice but to challenge the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) latest regulation on predatory pricing in a court of law. Speaking to FE on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Mittal said that they have a right to conduct business in a proper manner which the latest regulation hinders, so they are left with no option. “I don’t think there is any other choice. We heard views of one of the leading operator on the predatory pricing order, Vodafone. Vittorio (Colao ) has made a very strong comment and we have heard Trai’s response. This order hinders operators’ ability to conduct business in an orderly manner and I cannot envisage anything other than a legal challenge,” Mittal said. “We believe we must have the right to conduct business in a proper manner. What we are saying is that we will agitate at the proper forum. We must be provided the right to conduct business in an orderly manner, which is enshrined in the Constitution,” he added. Prior to Mittal, Vodafone’s group CEO Vittorio Colao had criticised the Trai’s order and said that the company will challenge it in court.

With Mittal’s statement, the contours have become clear: Incumbent operators will individually challenge the order while the Cellular Operators Association of India will also challenge it as an industry association. Incumbent operators and COAI feel that the order favours Reliance Jio. While Jio has denied this, Trai chairman RS Sharma said a day back in Barcelona that if the operators have any issues with the order, it is their right to approach the courts, and it is the right approach.  On other issues pertaining to the telecom sector, Mittal said that the next spectrum auction will not happen in a hurry, and the government should see that the pricing is right. “My view is, it will depend on bands. Please remember, we now have sufficient spectrum and by going into 5G, we will need larger slices of spectrum. So we will be going to a millimetre way, high bands or will like to have a sub-GHz band to start with and then add the capacity bands. I don’t think this will happen in a hurry because the government will also have to try which bands are to be auctioned,” he added.

On the timing, he said, “I won’t give a date. Let them (government) decide when they want to do it, but we will now buy spectrum only when we need it.” Mittal, who is also the chairman of global industry body GSMA, said that the new national telecom policy (NTP) should look at rationalising levies like spectrum usage charge and licence fee as well as taxes like the goods and services tax as the industry is heavily taxed.

(The writer is in Barcelona on the invitation of Huawei Telecommunications India)

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

Most Read In Industry