Has telecom regulation in India taken a beating?

Posted on December 13, 2005  /  10 Comments

Mahesh Uppal, Director, Com First (India) and a frequent participant in LIRNEasia events contends that the Indian telecom regulator’s authority and independence have been undermined by recent actions of the Minister of Telecom.
T V Ramachandran, Director General, COAI [cellular operators association] argues otherwise and states that the Minister’s actions promote Indian consumers’ interest.
We would like to get your view on this subject, please comment below. The full debate is available at the Business Standard.

No one’s doubting Maran’s recent initiatives, but the TRAI remains emasculated on critical issues like interconnection and BSNL’s monopoly
Mahesh Uppal Mahesh Uppal,
Director, Com First (India)

“A regulator without robust control of the interconnection regime can hardly ever be effective”
Given the tasks before them, of ensuring a competitive and efficient market, telecom regulators can be effective only if they have sufficient say in entry and exit of players and if they can ensure that new entrants can interconnect their networks to the existing network. Indeed, Trai Act of 1997 was amended in 2000 to fortify the regulator’s powers in these two areas. The amendments made it obligatory for the government to consult the regulator before licensing new players and virtually removed government powers in tariffs and interconnection. In spirit at least, all these amendments have been violated in recent times.

T V Ramachandran,
Director General, COAI
The announcement seeks to introduce unified licensing in the spirit enunciated by the TRAI
It is both untrue and mischievous to suggest that the government is, in any manner, bypassing the regulator. In fact, the recent landmark announcements by the Union Minister for Communication and IT Thiru Dayanidhi Maran constitute a brilliant piece of policy engineering that seeks to introduce unified licensing in the spirit and intentions enunciated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). I believe that these announcements are fully supportive of the regulatory framework and are intended to implement the regulatory recommendations after fine-tuning them to make them more meaningful and effective.


  1. TRAI wants broadcasting to be brought within its ambit minus content regulation. Regulator seems to suggest that an unified license calls for a converged regulator. Currently the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is the apex body that administers rules and regulations for broadcasting, I am not sure the ministry would be too pleased to give up their power. I think TRAI has been on the offensive for the last couple of months and the title of the main post doesn’t ring true anymore.

    Convergence: TRAI proposes Rs 5 cr entry fee

    March 20, 2006 18:39 IST

    Telecom regulator TRAI on Monday pitched for a single regulator for the telecommunications and broadcast sector and called for revival of Communications Convergence Bill, besides suggesting a much lower Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) entry for a licence in the converged scenario.

    This stand of TRAI marks a shift from its earlier suggestions on unified licensing, for which it had recommended levying a fee of Rs 107 crore (Rs 1.07 billion).

    “There should be reduction in the entry fee to reflect the changes made in the entry fee for NLD/ILD licence. Thus, this entry fee should come down to Rs 5 crore as against Rs 107 crore recommended earlier and this should further reduce to Rs 30 lakh (Rs 3 million) after five years as already recommended,” it said, while asking the Government to implement unified licensing proposals at the earliest.

    “However, several changes need to be made in this (Convergence) Bill. Content regulation should be kept out of the purview of the converged regulator. The division of powers between the government, TDSAT and TRAI should also broadly correspond to what is presently the position,” the regulator said, releasing the recommendations on convergence.

    “Convergence of technologies is rapidly blurring the boundaries between telecommunications and broadcasting. It is necessary for the legal and regulatory framework to adapt to this convergence and actively promote such convergence. This would also help in facilitating competition,” TRAI said.

    There should be a converged regulatory regime. The starting point for this exercise should be the Communications Convergence Bill, 2001, it said.

  2. Not only does TRAI have teeth, its baring them :)

    TRAI slams BSNL over poor interconnection

    The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has chastised stat-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) for failing to provide sufficient points of interconnection (PoIs) to private mobile operators, resulting in high levels of congestion and poor quality service. TRAI secretary Rajendra Singh sent a ‘strongly worded letter’ to BSNL chairman AK Sinha saying that the number of congested PoIs increased from 336 in January to 2006 to 517 in April. The regulator has already warned a number of operators over their poor interconnect facilities, issuing notices to private operators including Bharti Airtel and Reliance Infocomm in May, but BSNL has now been singled out for special criticism for its ‘extremely high level of congestion’. From Telegeography

  3. TRAI wants operators to surrender unused spectrum but government owned operator, MTNL, doesn’t want to comply. Since frequency allocation is tied to the number of subscribers an operator has, it highlights the importance of having a common methodology for counting mobile subscribers.

    TRAI wants four telcos to part with spectrum, MTNL disagrees

    New Delhi, Aug 18. (PTI): It is not just non-telecom users, telecom companies, including the state-owned MTNL, have drawn the TRAI’s wrath for not surrendering unused spectrum to the Government.

    In a letter to Department of Telecom, the regulator has mentioned that four mobile players — MTNL, Bharti Telenet, Shyam Telecom and HFCL — need to surrender the unused spectrum.

    A senior MTNL official said that the PSU would not give up the unused spectrum (CDMA), as this was allocated to it for its WLL service. While many other players had migrated to full mobility, it had to offer limited mobility (WLL) being a PSU.

    The official added that MTNL had invested a huge amount in in the network although, it did not have a large subscriber base for this service.

    “But we are trying to increase our WLL subscriber base, for which we will need this spectrum.. why should we surrender?,” the official asked

    More here:

  4. Wow, didn\’t realize that TRAI isn\’t able to fine operators on interconnection violation, for example. Every breach by operators had to be taken to magistrate\’s court and decisions take a long time to be delivered. TRAI is proposing an amendment to the Act to give itself more teeth.

    Business Standard, Aug 14, 2006
    Trai seeks more teeth, cable pricing power
    Siddharth Zarabi / New Delhi August 14, 2006
    The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has sought key amendments to the law that specifies its role and governs its functioning.

    Once legislated, the changes will give the regulator more teeth, empower it to ensure effective interconnection between networks and also impose fines on recalcitrant service providers.

    The specific amendments proposed include increasing the tenure of the chairperson and members from the present three years to five (the practice in other regulatory bodies like Sebi, IRDA, CEA), power to enforce compliance of its directives in the form of penal provisions and the sole authority to determine and fix cable television (broadcast) tariffs.

    The Trai Act was enacted in 1997 and subsequently amended in 2000, to separate the regulatory and dispute settlement functions through the creation of the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal.

    In January 2004, broadcasting and cable services were also brought under Trai purview, but no amendments to this effect were carried out.

    Trai Chairman Nripendra Misra, himself a former secretary of the Department of Telecom (DoT), recently wrote a letter to the present DoT Secretary Dinesh Shankar Mathur, with a copy marked to Information and Broadcasting Secretary SK Arora, suggesting the changes.

    \”In the course of working of the Act, some lacunae and ambiguities have been noticed, which have led to adverse court decisions. It has also put a question mark on the capacity of Trai to deliver according to the objectives of the Act,” the letter states.

    The letter goes on to cite examples like cases relating to the enforcement of tariff orders and to ensure effective interconnection between service providers (BSNL has consistently opposed many Trai orders on interconnection-related issues).

    \”The court decisions on interconnection issues have impaired the authority in ensuring effective interconnection. The matter is before the Supreme Court and its not certain how long the court will take to decide it. In the meanwhile, telecom subscribers will continue to suffer,” Misra’s letter adds.

    The Trai Act has very weak penal provisions, which lack deterrence. For any breach, a criminal complaint has to be filed in a magistrate’s court, with the subsequent process taking many years.

    “If the authority had the power to impose fines, compliance would be much better”, the letter added.

  5. I want to know where can I get the regulations declared by TRAI and there explanations. I read in a daily about unwanted e-calls by the operators. Recently AirTel has started calling me every now and then for their products though I do not have their service.


  6. Here is the consultation paper on this subject by TRAI:

    In the future, do use the google search tool.



  9. I have a mobile connection from Airtel, No. is 9818569451, one of executive from airtel call regarding new bill plan, explain as under :
    one time yearly advance rent Rs. 1198/-
    Local calls Airtel to Airtel/other mobile 0.50 per minute
    Local call airtel to Land Line 0.50 per minute
    STD 1.00 per minute

    and when i gent my bill everything ok exempt local landline charges by Rs. 1.00 per minute, and after that i have calls frequently regarding changes in bills, but no one bother about my complaint and now airtel ban my calls to customercare, and recovery department call to me every time and threaten regarding disconnection of phone.

    i hereby request to TRAI to check the matter and try to sought out my problem.

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