As the dust settles on India's latest spectrum auction, Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas, whose company owns 74% of Indian operator Telewings, said he can enjoy a moment of peace and quiet, albeit a brief one.
"Will the Indian market ever settle down? No. Never," he said during a press conference at Mobile World Congress, commenting that the next crisis or outrage is always just around the corner.
"Now that we have a better spectrum platform after the auction, we have a bit of peace and quiet at least from a spectrum point of view," he said.
Telewings paid INR8.4 billion ($134.9 million) to secure 1800-MHz frequencies in five circles, which Telenor said will enable it to continue to offer mobile services at affordable prices.
"We make our services affordable by having a low-cost operation. That's been our survival tactic and it has worked," Baksaas explained. "Telewings' ability to demonstrate its survival tactics gave Telenor the guts to go and buy more spectrum."
Last week the Indian government issued merger rules that require the buyer of an Indian mobile phone company to pay a fee to the government. The levy is calculated based on the spectrum holdings of the target company. The more spectrum involved, the higher the fee.
Despite the extra financial burden that could accompany future deals in the telecoms space, Baksaas thinks the need for scale could still trigger in-market consolidation.
"Who might be involved in that, I don't know," he said.
Baksaas also reiterated his opposition to India's retroactive tax policy, which has seen Vodafone embroiled with the government in a bitter dispute over its 2007 acquisition of Hutchison Essar.
"Vodafone will have to make its own comments on that, but our position on the principle of retroactive tax is very clear," he said. "Any taxation should be forward-looking. It should not look backwards as a matter of principle."