Telecom tycoons came calling on Tuesday to meet new communications and IT minister Kapil Sibal in a firefighting operation to clear the mess created by the 2G spectrum sale scandal and boost transparency in the industry.
Tata group chairman Ratan Tata, Bharti Airtel’s Sunil Mittal and Reliance Communications’ head Anil Ambani separately met the minister in hushed meetings in the backdrop of investigations into the sale of spectrum under former communications minister A. Raja, who quit in the wake of allegations of irregularities in spectrum sale.
Sibal is due to meet Kumar Mangalam Birla of Idea Cellular on Wednesday, government sources said.
The minister spent about 30 minutes with each of the industrialists, with no aides present.
Both government officials and the private firms in question were tightlipped on the meetings. However, ministry officials familiar with the development said Sibal expressed his unhappiness over the corporate war being fought by them over spectrum and focused on building investor confidence in the domestic telecom sector.
Later, Sibal told a TV Channel that spectrum sale had become part of a corporate war and that he had received positive feedback from the three industrialists. He also said that he met industry leaders to bring transparency into system and build confidence.
Incumbents and new entrants coming under an enabled policy change are at the heart of the scandal that involved supplying spectrum on a first-come,first-served basis, as distinct from a transparent auction.
Bharti Airtel was opposed to the entry of new telecom players and awarding spectrum to them as it led to price war and had a negative impact on the revenues of incumbent players.
Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices were beneficiaries of Raja’s policy of allowing CDMA players to offer GSM services. However, Tata Teleservices is still waiting for spectrum in Delhi.