Union Communications and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal on Tuesday met three important figures of the Indian telecom industry — Bharti Airtel's Sunil Mittal, Reliance Communications' Anil Ambani and Tata Teleservices' Ratan Tata — and discussed the prevailing situation of the sector, hit by allegations of corruption and corporate lobbying.
Mr. Sibal sought their views on three important issues — allocation of spectrum; formulation of new telecom policy and growth of broadband in the country that has been dismally low. On Wednesday, senior functionaries of two other leading mobile players — Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular — are also likely to hold similar discussions with Mr. Sibal.
The government sources said, Mr. Sibal assured them that complete fairness and transparency would be maintained while taking all telecom-related decisions, particularly in spectrum allocation. He also sought their views on the steps needed to further boost the growth of the sector.
The Minister told them that the government would not discriminate against any player and that the Centre would make a new policy to ensure that all necessary resources and support was provided to this sector that has helped boost economic growth. On their part, the telecom honchos expressed their concern over shortage of spectrum which was hampering their growth and network expansion.
After taking over from A. Raja, who resigned last month following alleged 2G spectrum allocation scam, Mr. Sibal had announced that he would meet all the stakeholders to ensure that the sector's growth is not derailed and involve all stakeholders in decision-making processes.
Top mobile operators have been engaged in verbal duel for the past few months over the allocation of spectrum and licence fee. These companies have been accusing the government and the Telecom Ministry of favouring their rivals.
Mr. Sibal has very categorical asked these companies not to indulge in public spat and come together to clear the mess created by the misinterpretation of the telecom policy that was posing threat to the sector's growth, particularly at a crucial juncture when the private companies were ready to roll out 3G services and high-speed wireless broadband.
Meanwhile, Mr. Sibal told a TV channel that the loss incurred by the exchequer in 1999 under the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government could be Rs.1.43-lakh crore when it changed the policy and shifted to revenue sharing mechanism from fixed licence fee for mobile operations.
“The actual loss to the exchequer was Rs.1.43-lakh crore in 1999 when the then government gave up auction and shifted to revenue share and also increased the duration of licence to 20 years from 10 years…Right from 2001 to 2009 nobody (telecom company) has paid for spectrum. Every operator has paid one-time entry fee of Rs.1,658 crore…low entry fee was the main reason for such a high growth in the telecom sector in the last few years,” he added.