Investors have not lost confidence in telecom sector: Sibal

Investors have not lost confidence in telecom sector: Sibal

More than a fortnight after the Supreme Court quashed 122 mobile telphone licences, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said foreign investors have not lost confidence in the sector and will participate in the auction of the airwaves freed by the court judgement.

He also ruled out the possibility of foreign telecom investors quitting India in the wake of the judgement.

"There is no nervousness (among foreign investors)," said Sibal, who had met most of foreign companies impacted by the apex court ruling.

"While some of them have indicated to me that they entered the market with a legitimate licence in the hands of somebody else... and when I say to them that the Supreme Court has said that we need to auction (the spectrum) and that they can participate in the auction and they are more than happy to participate," he told PTI here.

The Supreme Court had earlier this month cancelled 122 licences that were issued during the tenure of the then Telcom Minister A Raja in 2008. Most of the cancelled licences belong to new operators like SSTL, Unitech Group companies, Etisalat DB, Videocon, STel and Loop.

Some of these firms had roped in foreign investors like Norway's Telenor, Russia's Sistema and Middle Eastern firm Etisalat for the roll-out of telecom services in the country.

"The nervousness is about the uncertainty of the policy and is not about this licence or that licence," Sibal said adding the ruling had brought out delinking spectrum or airwaves from licence.

"So to that extent, it brings clarity because now we will move forward with a unified licence," he said.

Foreign investors who have pumped in billions of dollars in rolling out telecom services, are looking for clarity in policy matters, so that their investments are secure.

"They want a clearly demarcated, well-defined policy which will stand the test of time for the next 10-15 years, so that they can make their investment decisions in a manner that serves their larger economic interests and goals," Sibal said.

He added that what is a bigger concern to the foreign investors is the "unsteady nature of adhoc policy decisions taken from time to time".

The apex court has also asked the Department of Telecom to conduct a fresh auction for the spectrum freed from cancellation of the licence, within four months. Sibal, however, indicated that the government may not be able to complete the auction process within the stipulated time and may seek extension of the deadline from the Supreme Court.

"The previous auction took 768 days (nearly two years), so we are examining that issue as well because we have to then deal with the technical experts and those who conduct the auction and see if all this is possible within the timeframe which has been given to us by the Supreme Court," he said.

The government, he said, was studying the implications of the judgement and would then take a "considered view" on how to move forward.

"As and when we arrive at a some conclusions, we will then take appropriate action," he added.