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BW Businessworld

‘Empower TRAI To Penalise Telecom Players On Call Drops’

BW Businessworld’s Suman K. Jha chatted with him about his stint and developments in the sphere of telecom

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The outgoing chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), R.S. Sharma, was in the news recently when he put out his Aadhaar card details on Twitter, daring hackers to do “any damage”. BW Businessworld’s Suman K. Jha chatted with him about his stint and developments in the sphere of telecom.

TRAI’s recommendations on Net neutrality were approved in toto by the government. Do you now see India in a leadership position on Net neutrality?
That is not the ambition. Our basic consideration has to be a very pragmatic approach to why India needs Net neutrality. We are lagging behind in terms of physical infrastructure. But now that Internet has come, many of our services have gone online. We have leapfrogged. Agriculture, education — all now have become web-based. Now a lot of applications are riding on the Internet. We are very clear that Internet will play a great role in the growth and development of our country. Therefore, it should be free from cannibalisation, cartelisation and balkanisation. Basically it should not be divided into walled gardens. So this is the basic hypothesis for which we have taken recommendations.

We are also the largest democracy in the world with the second largest telecom (market). We are now the biggest data consumers in the world — in fact we are using more data than the United States and China put together. Our rates are the lowest in the whole world. Considering all these things, it is natural that whatever position India takes should become a very important milestone in the world.

Do you think call drops remain a problem?
We will now arrange the towers in descending order of call drops and take the percentile. So we are now measuring the performance at a granular level.

By way of transparency we have published a map which actually shows tower-wise call drop percentage. We have also issued a coverage map. We are working on it. So I think some method of transparency, some methods of quality of service norms have to be made more stringent. We have also recommended changing the TRAI Act to provide for penalties and other kinds of powers to the TRAI so that we are able to enforce the quality of service norms more effectively.

What were the highlights of your tenure?
It is about an institution, which has continuities. I can only say from my institution’s perspective and the sector’s perspective that this sector has become a transformed sector.  It has seen a lot of developments in the last three years. The space of operation of telecom has really grown.  
Today, telecom is not merely a vertical but like a platform. It serves every sector of the economy.  Think of any sector and tell me if there is no ICT in that sector. And I think, as a regulator, we have been able to guide or regulate this transition.  A lot of new things have come. Data play has come and with that we have a lot of issues of privacy, security and ownership and we have dealt with those issues.

What about the perception that TRAI is biased toward one particular operator?
The TRAI is a body which works under the TRAI Act.  It has a couple of functions, some of them are statutory. These are tariff, interconnection and quality of services. There are certain areas where it has recommendatory authority.

On areas where it makes regulations or orders, these are challengeable in an appropriate forum, legal forum.  So basically if you are aggrieved by TRAI’s regulations which are done under the TRAI Act, then the appropriate forum to approach is TDSAT or the high courts or the Supreme Court, rather than allege bias.


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