Telecom operator Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL), which operates under MTS brand name, lost all its 21 licenses in 2012 after a Supreme Court order but later won back permits in eight of these circles for Rs 3,639 crore. It's Chief Executive Officer, Dmitry Shukov, tells FE that the company plans to consolidate its position in the country by acquiring more spectrum in the 800 Mhz band. An excerpt from the interview:
1. The Capex figure for MTS India stood at about $ 35 million during 2013. What can be expected in 2014?
The Capex investments of about $35 million in 2013 included those made to launch our 3G Plus network across 9 circles (where we have presence). Given that bulk of those investments, we expect relatively lower CAPEX investments in 2014. Having said this, due to strategic reasons, it would not be possible for SSTL to give an absolute number for the current calendar year.
2. Will you be participating in the 800 MHz airwaves auction?
SSTL is a serious telecom operator with close to 10 million customers in 9 circles. We are also amongst the leading data players in the country and have already have invested over $3.5 billion in India. Given this background, we would naturally like to further consolidate our position by acquiring more spectrum in the 800 Mhz band. To do the same, we are hopeful that reserve price of spectrum would be such that it would make a good business sense to participate in the auctions.
3. What is the realistic reserve price for 800 Mhz for you? Are you happy with the reserve prices for 800 Mhz spectrum which have been proposed at Rs 2,685 crore per unit, over 50 % higher than price set for the 1800 MHz band?
We do not want to comment on this as SSTL is part of a working group to engage with the relevant government authorities on the spectrum pricing issue.
4. Do you have any plans to expand to pan-India level, from the existing 9 circles, if you bid successfully at the 800 MHz spectrum auction?
SSTL has always maintained that the key to successful auctions is always a realistic reserve price which is in sync with market realities. We are hopeful that like in the case of 900 Mhz and 1800 Mhz auctions, when it comes to auction of 800 Mhz, the adopted pricing formula should encourage serious telecom