Trai to push key agendas for FY18 with telecom, broadcasting cos

Source: Business Standard, Dec 27, 2016

New Delhi: In a first, Trai will begin in January discussions with telcos and broadcasting companies to draw up and publish an ‘agenda’ of important issues for 2017-18 — a move Chairman RS Sharma says will improve “regulatory predictability” in the sector.

Such a move is also in line with the best practices followed by regulators across the world, including the US, Canada, and parts of Europe.

“What we are proposing is to improve the regulatory predictability — we will identify important issues that would be taken up in the next financial year. We will call telecom operators and stakeholders in the broadcasting sector for meetings, so as to identify the upcoming issues,” Sharma said.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will write to telecom operators shortly to sound them out on the new exercise, which will be followed by meetings in January, he said.

“After that, we will follow some process to take the viewpoints of other stakeholders also, including people (public)…We hope that in early March, we should be able to publish our agenda for the next fiscal year,” Sharma said.

He emphasised that while Trai’s “agenda” would be a broad proactive list, urgent issues would also be taken up during the fiscal as and when they come up even though they may not be included in the list itself.

Asked if existing key issues such as review of the Interconnection Usage Charges (IUC) regime – on which the consultation process is currently on – would also spill over to the list, Sharma said he expected most of the current issues to get disposed by March 31, 2017.

Hence, the “agenda” would include fresh issues to be taken up by the regulator.

“Many regulators around the world do this…This is one of the practices which regulators follow in various sectors like telecom…Canada does that, US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) does that, some European regulators also do it. So, we are trying to get those best practices here also,” Sharma said.

The issues taken up by Trai during 2016 included free data, net neutrality, improvement of service quality norms for mobile services, internet telephony, proliferation of broadband through public wi-fi networks, Machine-to-machine communications, issues related to closure of access services, Captive VSAT CUG policy issues, and review of the regulatory framework for Interconnection, among others.

However, there was no calender drawn up in advance by the regulator so far, leading some in the industry to comment on the manner in which new issues were being taken up.

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