Trai is expected to meet telecom industry players next month, to deliberate on the issues that will be taken up during 2019, its Chairman RS Sharma said Monday. The discussion – now an annual feature – is however expected to entail a wider set of players in the telecom space this time, spanning operators, infrastructure providers and others. “The meeting will take place next month. We will talk to them and ask them about the items they think, should be taken up in the next calendar year,” Sharma told PTI on the sidelines of an interactive session on ‘New Regulatory Framework for Broadcasting and Cable Services‘.
This time around, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai’s) discussion would not be limited to telecom service providers alone but expected to include infrastructure providers and “a couple of other stakeholders in telecom space” as well, he noted. “So it will be a broader consultation to figure out the new areas to be deliberated next year,” Sharma said.
He noted that the priority areas for 2018, too, were identified through a prior discussion with players. “We certainly have our own list of areas too, Sharma said.
He said Trai would be able to finalise its views on the issue of a regulatory framework for Over-The-Top (OTP) players in the coming 5-6 months. Last week, the telecom regulator had launched a consultation to explore the regulatory framework for OTP apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and Google Duo that provide calling and messaging services similar to that by telcos.
Trai sought public opinion on whether same rules should be applied on OTT applications providing calling and instant messaging services as applied on telecom players. Meanwhile, addressing the interactive session on broadcasting, Sharma said the new comprehensive framework for the sector entailing tariffs, service quality and interconnect aspects, is aimed at “growth” and not hurting players.
“It is not aimed at hurting players but ensuring the growth of the sector in an orderly manner and keeps the interest of stakeholders in mind,” Sharma said. The fiery session saw concerns being raised by Local Cable Operators and Multi System Operators on issues ranging from operationalising the new norms to `a la carte rates’.
Sharma urged players to give the new framework a fighting chance and assured that Trai would keep an “open mind” and address issues as and when they emerge after the regulation is fully implemented.
He cautioned that technological changes, which improve service quality and enhance capacity, can also be disruptive.
The Supreme Court recently dismissed a plea challenging Trai’s March 2017 regulations and tariff order relating to fixation of charges for free and pay channels. The apex court’s verdict paved the way for implementation of Trai’s new tariff order for the broadcast sector. Trai’s framework of July, allows consumers to select and pay only for the channels they wish to view and requires TV broadcasters to disclose maximum retail price (MRP) of channels individually and that of bouquets.