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Telecom sector set for consolidation: TRAI Chief

Thomas K. Thomas
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Rahul Khullar
Rahul Khullar

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) reckons that the sector is set for consolidation over the next one year even as its finances improve.

In an interview with Business Line, Rahul Khullar, Chairman, TRAI, said, “A number of companies will merge or die. I have always maintained this. In other markets, there are not more than 3-4 players so why should India have 10?” Khullar said.

According to him, the painful period for the sector is ending slowly.

“We have sorted out many issues. Industry finances are improving. By the year-end, you will start seeing everybody’s EBITDA margins and average revenue per user going up.” On the Comptroller & Auditor General’s remarks that the quality of service norms were not being monitored properly, Khullar said that TRAI has laid out technical standards to ensure quality.

“It is not feasible for the regulator to go around on its own and measure these variables. So we have to hire someone for which we have an open tender for selecting agencies whose job is to do the test drives and report back to us,” Khullar said, adding that TRAI knows the difficulties with call centre accessibility.

TRAI has told the telecom companies to be more sensitive to this issue because consumers will simply not accept poor service any more.

SPECTRUM PRICING

On the issue of pricing 1800 Mhz and 900 Mhz spectrum bands for the next round of auction, Khullar said it is up to the Government to decide.

“At TRAI we have on our own started looking at how to make available more spectrum. For example, we are looking at how to free up spectrum presently used by Doordarshan and other users,” he said.

When asked about making more spectrum available in the 2.1 Ghz band, Khullar said the industry wanted more spectrum in this frequency band in a bid to resolve the dispute about 3G roaming agreements.

“If Government does a clean swap with Defence you will get enough for 2-3 more players. Defence will also not be worse off as it will get swap in another frequency band. But this cannot be done by the regulator. It’s the licensor and Defence Ministry which has to discuss this,” Khullar said.

thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on June 3, 2013)
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