Govt sending wrong signals to foreign investors by delaying digitisation: Rahul Khullar

MUMBAI: Recently, a letter written by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman Rahul Khullar pointed out that the government was committing a mistake by extending the deadline for digitisation. Khullar has many more points to present on the regulator and the industry.

In a conversation with Bloomberg, he said that his views on digitisation were very clear. “It is a very bad decision to defer it. It is bad for digital India, broadband delivery and not in public interest,” he said.

While the government says that its main aim is to push indigenous production of seven crore set top boxes (STBs) in two years, Khullar feels that this is a ‘pipe dream.’

Khullar said that last year several investors met him and conveyed that it was a miracle that they managed to get two crore boxes digitised. They also asked that by when will digitisation be completed because they are desperately interested in investments in cable. “By delaying digitisation, you are sending a signal to foreign investors that India isn’t ready for investment yet. This does great harm to public credibility,” he said.

Meanwhile, rumours are afloat that the government is mulling creation of a ‘super regulator’ that will oversee the communications sector. Khullar believes that it is necessary to keep content and carriage separate. “If your aim is to strengthen TRAI then you don’t need a super regulator, just empower the existing one. But if it is to regulate carriage and content, this is an experiment that hasn’t succeeded in the world,” he said.

According to him, issues concerning content immediately ‘stir up a hornet’s nest’ that usually involves freedom of speech. “My own sense would be to keep carriage and content separate and ensure that the content regulator has nothing to do with the government. Then you have some sort of fighting chance of regulatory survival,” he said.

Broadband is a growing medium of revenue that is catching the attention of all in media space. The TRAI is due to come out with a paper on ‘policy issues relating to broadband’ in the next 10 days. “Broadband and convergence is still five to 10 years away. If we are to deliver broadband we need to know how to do it in the cheapest way, who should be involved, what to be done in terms of application and software development,” he highlighted. It will focus on building infrastructure and delivering content.

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