Uninor to finalize partner before 2G spectrum auctions in Indian telecom market

Telecom Lead Asia:
Mobile major Uninor is likely to rope in a new strategic partner for its
operations – Uninor Wireless – in India, ahead of the 2G spectrum auction.

The Norwegian telecom firm is in talks with several
companies to replace Unitech as Uninor’s equity partner as its partnership with
the real estate major has hit a roadblock.

The telecom ministry is likely to conduct the 2G spectrum
auctions during 2012-13, though there are several challenges. Recently, TRAI
has come out with its consultation paper on 2G spectrum after the 2G spectrum
verdict by the Supreme Court.

Recently, the Company Law Board (CLB) had asked Unitech to
decide by March 19 if it wants to buy its joint venture partner Telenor’s 67
percent stake in Uninor or sell its 33 percent stake to the Norwegian telecom

In an interview with Telecom Lead, Sigve Brekke, executive
vice president, Telenor
Group and head of region Asia, said: “Uninor is going ahead with its Capex
plans for 2012. We are ensuring that the business is usual for us. We continue
to retain our resources, customers and distributors despite activities by our

The forthcoming 2G spectrum auction may put pressure on
Uninor’s plans to break-even next year.

If we need to pay huge price for spectrum, it will impact
our break-even. Otherwise, we hope to break-even next year. Most of Indian
telecom operators took around 8-9 years to break-even, but will achieve this in
3 years in business,” Brekke said.

wants level playing field

Recently, Uninor, in a note to TRAI, said competition in the
Indian market has over the past few years been performed on a very uneven
playing field, with a number of very small start up operators trying to gain
market share against well entrenched incumbent operators dictating terms and
conditions for permitting voice and SMS termination, POI connectivity and other
essential services which would be required by such start up entities.

Uninor is getting ready for 2G auctions. The telecom major
does not want to enter LTE / BWA. It will look at 3G services at a later stage.
I thank God as we did not bid for 3G in 2010. If we had spent for 3G spectrum,
our business (in this current scenario) would have become non-viable. 3G is an
important component of our business strategy. But India needs to achieve
maximum 2G penetration before gaining from 3G,” Brekke added.

Uninor is also ruling out buying out other operators in
India. It will be more cost effective for us to build network in India than
buying companies. We hope in 1-2 years, India will have 6-7 players from the
present 12-13.

Ahead of the 2G spectrum auction, Uninor is urging TRAI and
telecom ministry to ensure maximum competition in India.

The government needs to organize this in such a way that
the incumbents don’t just pick up all of the spectrum and pay a premium just to
get rid of the newer operators. Fresh licenses should be auctioned. Auction
should happen in two phases. Only operators who lost licenses should
participate in the initial phase. After the others got the spectrum, everyone can
participate,” Brekke added.

Baburajan K
[email protected]