New regulator should understand its authority, limitations, says COAI director general Rajan S Mathews

New Delhi: Expressing displeasure with the incumbent telecom regulator head, the industry body COAI said it wants new Trai chief to understand its authority and create a 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," COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews told PTI in an interview.

The government has started the process for selection of new Chairperson of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India as present chief 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.

 New regulator should understand its authority, limitations, says COAI director general Rajan S Mathews

Representational image.

Mathews further alleged that the current Trai chief regularly intervened in business with a 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 Department of Telecom did by asking us about our pain points," Mathews said.

Established telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea 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 on time then you will prevent any confusion and court cases from happening. The regulator can begin to facilitate the process of allowing a new entrant to come in," Mathews said.

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

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

COAI 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 IP telephony came from the regulators, it was like when the IP telephony 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 mandatory technology for the last 15-20 years... Earlier, there was 2G, 3G 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.

(Disclosure - Reliance Industries Ltd. is the sole beneficiary of Independent Media Trust which controls Network18 Media & Investments Ltd)

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Updated Date: Jul 09, 2018 11:21:29 IST