Reminding of the role it played in resolving the NRI kids custody issue, Norway has asked Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to address concerns of its telecom company, Telenor in the auction of spectrum.
Norway's Telenor, whose telecom license was among the 122 cancelled by the Supreme Court earlier this year, wants incumbents like Airtel and Vodafone to be kept out of the proposed auction of the freed spectrum so that only new comers get the scarce airwaves.
Stating that there has been "concrete and positive follow-up" of the custody row that Mukherjee had raised during a April 10 meeting, Norwegian Minister for Trade and Industry Trond Giske said, "The child custody case has found an amicable solution, with the two children back in India."
With this background, Giske forwarded a brief note "describing the concerns of the Norwegian government" on the methodology and the base price set by telecom regulator Trai for the auction of spectrum.
"I remain hopeful that Indian authorities will find a solution that enables newcomers such as Telenor to continue its operations in India as an important partner in the further development of India's telecommunication sector," he wrote on May 12 to Mukherjee.
In the note, he said the TRAI's recommendation for offering 5 MHz of spectrum was "too low for new-comers to have a realistic chance of participation in an auction that is open to all sectors."
"All the cancelled spectrum should be auctioned," he stated.
"If only a limited amount of spectrum is offered, limiting participation in the auction would allow for Telenor and other new comers to participate in a realistic manner. This could ensure more actors in the sector," Giske said.
Giske pointed to his meeting with Mukherjee on April 10 and progress made on issues discussed with him which included child custody case, Norwegian Pension Funds in India and Trai recommendations.
"The child custody case has found an amicable solution, with the two children back in India. I also understand that you had a good meeting with my colleague... And that the issue of investment by the Norwegian Pension Fund in India was discussed," he wrote.
Norwegian Child Welfare Agency has taken away two children, Abhigyan and Aishwarya of an Indian couple, Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya in Norway on charges that couple were unable to give proper treatment to their children due to marital disputes among them. However, after diplomatic interventions, both kids returned to Kolkata in April.
Giske said, "Regarding the third issue we discussed, I note that the recent recommendations issued by Trai have created considerable uncertainty and grave concern about Telenor's possibilities to continue operations in India."
Norwegian government has been continuously raising issue for protecting its state-run telecom company Telenor after Supreme Court ordered to cancel all telecom permits of Uninor, in which the Norwegian firm majority stake. Uninor licences are now valid only till September 7.
Telenor says that its invested around $3 billion in India and if it fails to continue its business in the country then it will be biggest loss for any Norwegian company in a foreign country.
Telenor now needs to win spectrum in the proposed auction due before August 31 to continue its services.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has recommended only one slot of 5 Mhz of spectrum for auction. Telenor termed it 'artificial scarcity' and expressed concerned on the same.
The Norwegian Minister did not raise the steep high spectrum price of Rs 3,622 crore per megahertz recommended by Trai but said that proposed network roll-out obligations will place "a very heavy burden on the new comers in the sector."
The new roll-out obligation of Trai, telecom operators will have to cover 50% of villages with population of 2,000 and above within three years of getting spectrum and all such villages within four years.