Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas (pictured) joined Vodafone in calling for the Indian government to release much-needed spectrum to ensure the country’s mobile operators can keep up with soaring demand.
Baksaas told the Economic Times: “Countries release nearly 100 per cent spectrum for commercial use, but in India, a comparably smaller amount of spectrum is released, which needs to be changed.”
Telenor’s India unit, Uninor, operates in six regions, or circles, and has about 42 million connections for a 4.5 per cent market share. It doesn’t own 3G spectrum but has said it is considering bidding for the 900MHz band when it’s auctioned off.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said in August the government should be more aggressive in the auctioning of spectrum, including the 700MHz band, and was critical of the slow release of “coveted” frequencies.
Baksaas told the Times that the company is open for M&A in India, but the country’s rules “don’t encourage such a move”.
Meanwhile, Vodafone India has formally requested the Department of Telecommunications to immediately release the 1.8GHz spectrum it won in the February auction and paid for in March.
Because of the six-month delay, despite several reminders, the company also is seeking a six-month extension of the expiry date of its existing 900MHz spectrum from the date the new frequencies are assigned.
The country’s second largest operator said in a statement there are only seven weeks until it has to replace the currently deployed 900MHz spectrum with the 900MHz won in the auctions in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.
In early September Bharti Airtel said it was seeking compensation from the country’s government to cover the interest on money it borrowed to secure spectrum to which it is yet to receive access.
The spectrum in the 1.8GHz and 900MHz bands was secured in an auction in February and India’s largest operator has urged the government to speed up the process to allot the airwaves.