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Allocate unsold spectrum at a price: Voda Idea CEO

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NEW DELHI: Ahead of 5G auctions, Vodafone Idea MD & CEO Ravinder Takkar has said that the telecom department should consider “allocating” spectrum that is left unsold to mobile operators at a certain market-discovered price as companies scale networks to meet the country’s growing digital consumption.
Takkar, who is leading the turnaround strategy for Vodafone Idea that struggles with a Rs 1. 9-lakh-crore debt and heavy losses, also said that the company is gradually moving towards sorting out its financial woes as it reaps synergies of the merger between Vodafone India and Idea Cellular , while looking to close in on an estimated Rs 20,000 crore in fresh funding very soon.
The only roadblock before getting the external funding — to be divided equally between debt and equity — is the wait for the government to fulfil its promise to pick up a stake in the company by converting its Rs 16,000-crore interest demand into a near 33% equity. “It is a process, (and) it doesn’t happen overnight… (but) why would somebody put in money when they don’t know how much the government will own?. . . for a third-party investor, the government equity holding is an important point,” Takkar told TOI.
On his suggestion of allocating unsold spectrum to mobile operators at a price, Takkar said that it can be considered as one of the options. “So, if you look at the last auction that took place in February 21, there was like 60% spectrum that went unsold… (So) you might as well allocate… may be you should consider just giving the spectrum away at a certain price because there’s a price-discovery element,” he said. Tak- kar further added, “I’m saying that it’s an option which could be looked at. I’m not saying that that’s what I’m advocating for. ”
Speaking about financial performance of Vodafone Idea, Takkar said it has managed to improve its ARPU (average revenue per user) due to tariff hikes and operational efficiencies. Asked whether the revival is led only because of the government’s bailout package, he said, “It is a myth that we are being kept alive. There have been many ups and downs in the past 25 years. There is no doubt we would come out stronger from here. ”



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