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TRAI chief: Pending DAS tariff, interconnect, QoS norms by year-end

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NEW DELHI: India’s telecoms and broadcast carriage regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has said it would issue final guidelines relating to broadcast tariff, interconnect and quality of service issues by this month-end and reiterated its overall aim is to “harmonise” norms so as to facilitate growth of the industry in an ambiguity-free regulatory environment.

“We are bringing out a comprehensive and common framework for all platforms relating to quality of service (QoS), tariff and interconnect. We have been working on it for many months now,” TRAI chairman RS Sharma told indiantelevision.com in an exclusive interview, adding that criticism of draft guidelines were part of a democratic consultation process.

According to Sharma, the final recommendations of the regulator, which are being framed after a lengthy process of consultation with all stakeholders spread over several months, will be “issued by the end of this month (2016 end).”

Sharma, who spoke on a whole range of issues on telecoms and broadcast sectors that it oversees, said the overall effort of TRAI was to create a framework for industry players that will boost digitization making the dream of Digital India come true. “We are working towards an environment that will reduce ambiguity in regulations and help all stakeholders, including the consumer,” he added.  

Last week, the Delhi High Court removed almost all legal hurdles to complete digital rollout of TV services in the country by vacating all interim court orders that had been passed by other courts in the country extending the deadline for implementation of Phase III of digital addressable system (DAS).

Though Sharma pointed out that the legal cases (taken care by Delhi HC on direction from Supreme Court) had no direct bearing on TRAI’s efforts to bring about a comprehensive regulatory framework for digital TV services in India, Sharma said, “It is the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) that will have to enforce the (digitization) schedule, but we are ready to provide any assistance to MIB if needed.”

On the entry of new technologies in India, which give window to innovations, the TRAI chief opined new technologies should be actively promoted without an attempt to throttle them through regulations.

“We should not try to throttle them (new technologies) just because there are legacy business models. Business models must adapt to technology rather that technology being stifled in order to protect business models,” Sharma said.

Quizzed, on the issue of Net Neutrality and new techs like OTT, Sharma explained, “We have already dealt with the issue of Net Neutrality from the tariff perspective (TRAI banned zero-tariff plans by telcos earlier this year). But as the government has asked us to provide it with comprehensive recommendations on the issue, we are in the final stages... (but) it may take a couple of months more.”

While agreeing with the broad idea that time has arrived for India to have a comprehensive convergence law and regulator, Sharma made it clear that TRAI was not a competent authority to take a call on such policy matters and it was the government’s prerogative. “What should be the methods of regulatory structure (for a convergence law)? How will it be governed? Who will do it? I am not the competent person (on such issues) as it’s for the government to decide. But I certainly agree that because of technological developments, lot of convergence is happening in various sectors.”

Asked to comment on a common criticism that India is an over-regulated market, Sharma disagreed and said, “We don’t believe in unnecessary regulations. However, at the same time, some regulation is necessary for an orderly growth of the industry; especially so consumers don’t suffer because of ambiguities in rules.”   

Keep tuned in to read the full interview of TRAI chief, which is coming soon.

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