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New regulator should understand its authority, limitations: COAI DG

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Expressing displeasure with the incumbent telecom regulator head, the industry body said it wants new Trai to understand its authority and create balance between industry and consumer welfare.

"I think the new regulator (head) is got to understand his authority and the limitations of his authority. Where can you really exercise, what is legitimately your authority," told in an interview.

The government has started process for selection of new Chairperson of the as of the body R S Sharma will complete his term next month.

"Sharma was so focussed on customers that I believe he forgot Trai Act says you must look after customers as well as industry. I feel somebody who can keep that balance - look after customer as well industry so that industry is also properly regulated and not allowed to go for free fall - should be appointed new Trai Chairman," Mathews claimed.

Mathews further alleged that the current Trai regularly intervened in business with large number of consultation proposals and recommendations during his regime for changes in existing norms.

"Under his regime how many discussion papers have we had? I am saying that the industry where there are 1.1 billion customers it is not like turning on a switch and being like in 30 days you do this, in 60 days you do this. This is an industry that has so many customers that you are constantly intervening in so many live networks, he said.

Mathews, however, said that Trai's recommendation of ease of doing business and inputs for new telecom policy has been very positive for the industry.

"We could have worked better together instead of going this route of trying to impose penalties. We could have adopted the methodology of that the did by asking us about our pain points," Mathews said.

Established telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, and others claim that they have been hit by tariff war triggered by new entrant Reliance Jio, and Trai's decision to reduce mobile call connection charges have added to their woes.

Old telecom operators have also challenged Trai's decision for being unable to stop free call and mobile data offers from Jio that led to fall in their margins.

Mathews said the regulator should take care of both the consumers and industry rather than just being focused on the customers and forget health of the industry.

"When you look back, we had earlier asked when the new entrant came in, how could you facilitate the concerns of the new operator as well as the old operator. If you make the decision in time then you will prevent any confusion and court cases from happening. Regulator can begin to facilitate the process of allowing new entrant to come in," Mathews said.

Though Trai had organised few meetings between old telecom operators and but they were not very fruitful. The regulator recommended total penalty of Rs 3,050 crore on Airtel, and for denying interconnection facility to newcomer

Sharma in a had said that his focus is to transform the sector and facilitate advent of new technologies like (IP) based network so that is at par with advanced nations.

DG said that the networks have been made IP enabled "even before the regulator understood what IP was".

He said that telecom operators innovate and making changes in the network.

"It is not that came from the regulators, it was like when the came in the regulators had to think about what should be the regulations of this," Mathews said.

He said that industry welcomes new technology and regulator should have facilitated proper migration path from old technology to new technology, which could have helped both industry and customers.

"Remember the government was the one that prescribed 2G as a for the last 15-20 years... Earlier, there was 2G, and now came 4G. The government didn't liberalise spectrum for long period of time. The regulator himself is responsible in implementing the policy, the government only governs it and keeps a check on it, Mathews said.

He said that there should be a conducive relationship between the industry and the regulator.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, July 08 2018. 16:45 IST