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TRAI to submit broadband policy proposals soon

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Mr Pradip Baijal

Chennai , March 25

THE Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is confident that the recommendations for a policy on broadband connections will result in a spurt in broadband connections across the country.

The authority is finalising the recommendations and will forward them to the government within a fortnight, according to Mr Pradip Baijal, Chairman, TRAI.

Addressing an open house here on Thursday on three consultation papers released by the authority and talking to the press later, he said, "In two-three years, each one of us will have a broadband connection." He was confident that the government would also offer all the concessions that TRAI planned to include in its note.

He said India lagged behind others such as China, Korea and Malaysia in the number of broadband connections. Only two in 10,000 had broadband connections in India, while it was 57 out of 100 in Korea, 1.2 in 100 each in China and Malaysia. There were now 42 million fixed line telephone connections and 55 million cable television homes in India. And, changing them to broadband would also spur GDP growth.

Mr Baijal said the authority was working on reducing the number of tariff packages offered by mobile telephone operators. The regulations allowed them to offer as many as 25 packages each, and the aim was to bring this down to five. TRAI had asked the cellular service providers to offer their tariff packages in a standard format. Some of the operators had not done this. The authority did not want to prosecute these operators. However, a software to be installed shortly by TRAI would help cellular subscribers to choose the package that best suited them. And cellular operators not outlining their tariff packages in the prescribed format would not be included in the software, he said.

Mr Baijal said thanks to various measures, the mobile phone subscriber base had increased from 10 million in end-2002 to 30 million at the end of 2003. This figure would go up to 100 million in two years.

The open house was on three consultation papers prepared by the authority: an ombudsman for the telecommunication sector, preventing mobile handset theft and applying principles of non-discrimination in tariff schemes such as closed user groups.

Some participants in the open house felt the market would become aggressive and help reduce grievances and hence an ombudsman was not needed while some others were of the view that an ombudsman was required. The participants also said exit options for the various tariff plans of the cellular companies should be made easier. As far as schemes such as closed user groups were concerned, participants felt that TRAI should not intervene in this.

On preventing theft of mobile handsets, the participants wondered whether TRAI should even involve itself in this. Mr Baijal, however, pointed out that technology was available to prevent theft and misuse. Representatives of the cellular phone companies felt that instead of worrying about handset theft, the companies should be asked to set a timeframe within which they would make the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card (the card that enables a caller to use the handset) inactive once the theft or loss is reported.

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