CIRC in MEDIA - January 2009


Govt slow in acting on key reform proposals: TRAI
Business Line, January 17, 2009

New Delhi, Jan. 16 The outgoing Chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Mr Nripendra Misra, on Friday said that some of its key policy recommendations on next generation telecom reforms are still waiting decision from the Government.

Lamenting the lack of adequate powers to the regulator, Mr Misra said pressures from incumbent operators, new players and the national treasury were slowing down the decision making process in the telecom sector.

Speaking at a seminar on regulation for infrastructure sectors organised by the CUTS Institute of Regulation and Competition, Mr Misra said, “The regulator had given its recommendations on third generation (3G) mobile services in 2006, it is still to be implemented. Even if spectrum were to be given now it will take another 6-8 months before roll-outs happen.”

Number portability

“TRAI had given suggestions on introducing Mobile Number Portability in 2005. There is no response on this. We had given our recommendations on allowing unrestricted Internet Telephony last year. These are second generation reforms, which have to be implemented, but nothing has happened.”

The Department of Telecom and the TRAI have been at loggerheads over the past two years over various issues. But this is the first time the TRAI Chairman has gone public with his views on the need for more powers.

Widening rift

It had all started after the Communications Ministry said that its decision not to auction spectrum for GSM operators was based on the suggestions made by the TRAI despite the regulator claiming that DoT had cherry picked from its proposals.

The differences further widened after DoT dumped recommendations made by the telecom regulator on restricting 3G auction to existing players. DoT has even told the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs that the regulator had gone beyond its brief in giving its views on auction when it was asked to give recommendations on spectrum charges.

“Regulation cannot be effective if it’s only recommendatory in nature. It has to be adhered to by the Government,” said Mr Misra.

Pending list

A number of other recommendations made by the regulator are still pending with the Government including the one on spectrum management, measures to improve the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) and revamping the rural phone strategy.

“Instead of talking about regulatory framework we should find out what happened to these recommendations and why things are slowing down,” said Mr Misra, who is scheduled to step down from the Chairman’s post in March after a three-year stint.

He said that licensing and spectrum management powers should also be vested with the telecom regulator. TRAI had earlier written to the Communications Ministry seeking more powers including authority to impose penalty on operators violating norms and extending the duration of TRAI’s board from 3 to 5 years. It had also sought financial independence by proposing to fund its expenses from the money collected in the form of licence fee from operators instead of the Consolidated Fund of India.

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India should avoid too many sectoral regulators: Rangarajan
Indopia, January 16, 2009

New Delhi, Jan 16 India should avoid having too many regulators as some of the common problems concerning regulation can be dealt with by the Competition Commission of India, former Reserve Bank Governor C Rangarajan said today.

"We should not proliferate sectoral regulations. Where quasi-monopolies are there, we can have sector regulation," he said at a roundtable on regulations organised by CUTS Institute for Regulation and Competition here.

The common problems of regulations, Rangarajan, who is currently a member of the Rajya Sabha, said, could be handled by the Competition Commission." That is what the Competition law is all about," he added.

Rangarajan added that India, like the United Kingdom, cannot have a single regulator." We are not ready for merging all regulators into one omnibus regulator,"said.

Pointing out that independent regulators would be needed for those sectors where the companies enjoy some kind of natural monopolies, he said, there should be clarity about regulations especially on what needs to be regulated.

Participating in the roundtable, Rajya Sabha member N K Singh said regulations cannot be independent of the governance reforms.

"If regulators do everything, what the minister&aposs would do?", he said.

Singh further said people involved in framing regulation should be equipped with domain knowledge which is essential for effective regulation.

Pramod Deo, chairman of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission during his intervention said there should be a clear distinction between the government and the government utilities.

This news item can also be viewed at: http://www.indopia.in/