Sibal asks telcos to smoke peace pipe

Sibal, during his meeting with various telecom operators, discussed in detail issues ranging from spectrum sharing, merger and acquisition, annual spectrum usage charge and rising disputes among the telecom firms.

"Range of issues were on the table basically as you know that TRAI had given its recommendations way back in May last year and then its latest recommendations on spectrum management in February 2011.

"I have urged the stakeholders that the captains of the industry must get together and iron out the differences among themselves because no industry can be robust if it is fractious," Sibal told reporters here.

The minister held consultations with stakeholders to evolve a clear and transparent regime covering licensing, spectrum allocation and other issues in the telecom sector.

"By the end of this month Minister has asked to give our recommendations to sort out differences existing in the industry," Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Director Rajan S Mathew said.

The recommendations given by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on spectrum management and licensing framework which earned criticism from most of leading telecom players was the centre of deliberations at the conference.

"Now these issues will be taken to the Telecom Commission and later the government will take a decision on them. I have a 100 day agenda and I keep my 100 day agenda," Sibal added.

At the beginning of this year, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal had initiated action to formulate comprehensive National Telecom Policy 2011 under his 100 days agenda.

Supporting the Telecom Minister's views Bharti Airtel CEO Sanjay Kapoor said,"there needs to be a level playing field and that is what matters and that is what we as operators are demanding".

The meeting was attended by various telecom Chiefs including Bharti Airtel's Sanjay Kappor, Vodafone's T V Ramachandran and others.

Telecom major Bharti Airtel had, in a statement, said TRAIs recommendations are against the stated principle of the Government to offer affordability, fairness and level playing field.

Reliance Communications, on its part, had alleged that TRAI's recommendation favoured old operators.

It said if the recommendations were accepted it will cause government a loss of Rs 6,500 crore.

During the conference, Sibal discussed delinking of spectrum from licensing of access service in future and renewal of licences, among other things.

"Well I think it is something which has to be tried because ultimately for the harmonious functioning of the sector, this is desirable and every effort in that direction has to be made", Secretary, Department of Telecom, R Chandrasekhar said.

"Well in my sense the next step is to take it to the Telecom Commission but as the Minister has indicated we would need to leave some time for a possible meeting of minds or consensus.

"I would not like to put a timeframe. We would try to take forward the decision making process as earliest," he said.

The telecom minister also discussed mergers and acquisition issues like relevant market share, minimum number of operators post merger, spectrum pricing on consolidation and spectrum transfer charges.

Stakeholders unanimously agreed not to bring telecom infrastructure provider (IP-1) under licensing framework.

"Absence of infrastructure and sharing of infrastructure is not allowed," an industry player present during the meeting said.

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