New Delhi: A “cartel” of 4-5 telecom firms having a billion subscribers are making Rs 250 crore a day, but not making investments on their network to improve services to check call drops, government told the Supreme Court on Thursday.
“There is a cartel of four-five telecom companies having billion subscribers, who are making Rs 250 crore a day from outgoing calls. They have stupendous growth but they are making minimum investment on their network to improve the quality of service on their network to curb call drops,” Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said.
Rohatgi, appearing for TRAI before a bench of justices Kurian Joseph and RF Nariman, also defended the penalty imposed by the regulator on the telecom firms, saying it will be around Rs 280 crore and not thousands of crore as was being claimed by the service providers.
“They are making around Rs one lakh crore a year from calls and the impact of penalty will be Rs 270-280 crore and not thousands of crore as claimed by them,” he said.
The Attorney General further said there was growth of 61 per cent in the subscriber base for telecom companies from 2009 to 2015 and they were diverting part of the spectrum to data for making more money.
“Data service cost more than the calls. None of these telecom companies are here for charity. They are here with billion subscribers for profit. They charge for everything,” Rohatgi said.
COAI, a body of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India and 21 telecom operators, including Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Reliance, have challenged the Delhi High Court order upholding TRAI’s decision making it mandatory for them to compensate subscribers for call drops from this January.
The Attorney General said the telcos often cite shortage of spectrum as a reason for call drops but the radiowave remained unsold during the recent auction in 700 Mhz band.
“Whether you (telcos) get the spectrum or less spectrum, that is not the problem of TRAI. If you have less spectrum, then you have to either restrict your subscription or you will have to invest on technology. No one has come forward to say my hands are full and I can’t have more subscribers,” he said.
The Attorney General said that in India, the investment by telcos during the past five years has been Rs five billion, while it was Rs 50 billion in China during the same period.