Government may consider making TRAI stronger by providing the power to slap penalty: Telecom Minister

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In an interaction to Times of India (TOI), telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has hinted that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) may give more power to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), especially in initiating penal action against mobile operators for deficient services.

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He also told TOI that companies "need to do more" to improve quality. Also, it believes that companies need to invest more. The Government focuses on better options to address the issue of call drops and is scrutinizing how it can held the mobile operators accountable for poor services. Charging penalty on mobile operators was earlier considered. "These may be considered, but I need to study the apex court's judgment and also look at the Trai Act. We will look into all these issues," Prasad said.

"The ultimate call on the future direction needs to be taken by TRAI as tariffs and quality of services fall under its domain. As far as the larger issue of service quality is concerned, it is very much the responsibility of telecom companies to provide good, satisfactory services," Prasad said. "They have to identify gaps and reinforce their network through investments."

In the interaction, the minister also pointed out several instances where it helped the companies to deliver better quality services. One action pointed out was the permission to trade and share spectrum. Also, he listed out the upcoming spectrum auctions where the government will offer a record 2,000 MHz of mobile airwaves.

"I want to emphasize that the government has cleared all the pending policy issues regarding the sector. Telecom companies now clearly need to do more. The government will insist upon the operators that they must fulfil their obligations towards consumers," he said.

The minister also took the opportunity to say that ‘I am not only the telecom minister of the country, but equally the minister for consumer interest.’

He also reacted to the swipe taken by Kapil Sibal, the former telecom minister and the lawyer for mobile operators grouping, where he referred to Prasad as the ‘call drop minister’. Prasad said, "I do not want to comment specifically on what the counsel for the mobile operators said. Either he should become a big lawyer or talk like a leader. If he has commented as a lawyer, then it is unfortunate. If he wants to talk to me as a political leader, I am ready with a good reply for him. I too have lots of questions for him. He has been a minister of this department."

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