Voda Seeks More ‘Qual­ity’ Spec­trum at Rea­son­able Price

Move to cut SUC to 3% for next auc­tion will free up cash flows: In­dia MD

The Economic Times - - Companies - Our Bureau

SUNILSOOD MD, Voda­fone In­dia

New Delhi: Voda­fone In­dia has called for al­lot­ment of more “qual­ity spec­trum” at rea­son­able prices to help tel­cos cater to the needs of an in­creas­ingly data-hun­gry pop­u­la­tion, while back­ing the govern­ment’s re­cent pol­icy moves on cut­ting spec­trum us­age fee (SUC) and air­wave har­mon­i­sa­tion.

In a state­ment on Mon­day, Su­nil Sood, MD of Voda­fone In­dia, said the re­cent govern­ment move to cut SUC to 3% from 5% for the next auc­tion will free up cash flows for the in­dus­try, which can be in­vested in net­work to im­prove qual­ity of ser­vices.

“The tele­com sec­tor is se­verely debt laden (more than .₹ 3 lakh crore at last count and grow­ing),” Sood said. He de­scribed the move as a “posi- tive step that ben­e­fits the in­dus­try and is also in line with Trai’s rec­om­men­da­tion of hav­ing a uni­form, min­i­mal SUC charge for all spec­trum across the in­dus­try.” Com­ments from Voda­fone In­dia, a unit of UK-based Voda­fone Group Plc, ap­pear con­cil­ia­tory, com­ing at a time when its his­tor­i­cally testy ties with the In­dian govern­ment have again hit a rough patch, with the telco so far not ac­cept­ing the govern­ment’s one-time of­fer to re­solve the long-stand­ing .₹ 20,000-crore tax dis­pute over the telco’s Hutchi­son Wham­poa stake buy in 2007.

The govern­ment, on its part, has de­cided to chal­lenge in a higher court a ver­dict in a se- parate .₹ 8,500-crore tax case, which went in favour of the car­rier, a move seen by many as a con­se­quence of Voda­fone’s in­ac­tion to­wards the set­tle­ment of­fer.

It also comes at a time when Voda­fone is pre­par­ing for the next round of spec­trum auc­tions where it needs to beef up its data spec­trum hold­ings to com­pete with ri­vals such as Bharti Air­tel, Idea Cel­lu­lar be­sides new­comer Re­liance Jio In­fo­comm.

“Har­mon­is­ing the avail­able spec­trum to of­fer ad­di­tional quan­tum via auc­tion is an­other pro­gres­sive step by the govern­ment (af­ter spec­trum trad­ing and shar­ing), to max­imise ef­fi­ciency of this pre­cious re­source,” he added. Har­mon­i­sa­tion makes air­waves con­tigu­ous or ‘con­tin­u­ous’, which is crit­i­cal for 4G ser­vices. In the process, it can also free up more air­waves, which can be put up for sale. With “consumer de­mands evolv­ing from voice to data, the tele­com in­dus­try in­creas­ingly needs more of qual­ity spec­trum to be made avail­able at rea­son­able prices,” Sood added.

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