Ad war to woo subscribers in circles where 122 licences are cancelled

A day after the landmark judgment in the 2G spectrum case, old telecom operators and those affected by the Supreme Court order, began an ad war to woo over seven crore mobile subscribers in circles where the 122 licences issued in 2008 will be scrapped.

Interestingly, Thursday's judgment can also have its implications on the diplomatic front, as nations whose firms' investments are jeopardised are likely to pressure the Indian government to find an amicable solution to the issue.

Meanwhile, new operators like Uninor (in which Norway's Telenor is the majority stakeholder), Etisalat DB (in which the UAE's Etisalat is a partner) and Sistema-Shyam (run by the Sistema Group of Russia) have reiterated that they are committed to their India operations and are mulling over moving the Supreme Court to seek relief on the licence issue.

These companies are also chalking out future strategies in consultation with their parent firms. But all this will depend on the process the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) adopts.

Uninor (with over 3.63 crore subscribers), Sistema-Shyam (over 1.5 crore users), Videocon (54 lakh users) and Etisalat DB (16 lakh subscribers) are now fearing a flood of surrogate advertisements, in which competitors Airtel and Vodafone are likely to target their customers.

On Friday, Vodafone issued newspaper advertisements, highlighting its strengths and asking people to make use of the mobile number portability (MNP) facility to switch port to its network.

To counter this, the affected telecom firms are planning a full-fledged campaign to avoid poaching by their rivals, besides exploring the legal options.

“To safeguard its interests, Sistema and Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd [SSTL] will contest this [court] order by pursuing all available legal remedies. In the meantime, Indian operations will remain business as usual for the company,” the Russia conglomerate said in a statement.

Similarly, Telenor said: Our intention is to fight to protect our lawful investments in the country. We are looking to the government to arrive at a fair solution. We expect that the intention remains [one] of bringing new competition to India.”

In a statement, the Telenor Group added: “The Norwegian government has announced that it is monitoring the situation and will actively contribute to find solutions to secure Telenor's investments and presence in India.”

Videocon Telecommunication said it would await the TRAI recommendation before deciding its course of action. “I think we have to wait for four months [the time given by the court for spectrum auction]. Let the rebidding process come...then we have to look at TRAI recommendation,” Videocon Telecommunications MD R.N. Dhoot said.