The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has recently come out with a number of recommendations and orders that will have far-reaching impact on the communications and broadcasting sectors. BusinessLine spoke to R.S. Sharma, Chairman, TRAI, on some of these issues. Edited excerpts:

In your regulation on differential data pricing, why have you allowed differential pricing in a closed-network environment? This has created concerns that some operators will take benefit of this exemption.

Our regulation on discriminatory tariff for data services is very clear and there is no scope for ambiguity. However, if there are issues brought out before us, TRAI will take appropriate decision in terms of the regulation.

You have given recommendations on the National Optical Fibre Network project, suggesting to move to a PPP model. Will this work, given all the delays and complexities involved?

TRAI has made formal recommendation on implementations and we believe that’s the best way. It’s an option.

If the bidding does not result in attracting private players in any area, then we can go down the EPC route.

There are concerns over your pricing of 700 MHz spectrum. Operators say it is better to buy out another operator than buy spectrum through auction.

You look at the history of pricing and you will see that this has always been made an issue. We are sure that we have appropriately priced it. It is neither high nor too low. Ultimately, the auction will determine the final pricing.

What are your big areas of concern?

Quality of service is one issue. Slowness of adoption of newer technologies, such as 3G, 4G and Internet of Things is another area. We have, for example, recommended to allow cable TV operators to use their infrastructure for Internet. It will be unfortunate if this is not done.

What are you working on now?

We are doing major work in bringing transparency and offering consumers choice in the broadcasting sector. The industry has legacy issues — lack of transparency, no appropriate contracts, so many disputes… All these need to be cleaned up.

What is the status of your new paper on Net neutrality?

We have, so far, only looked at Net neutrality from the pricing perspective, but it has other dimensions, such as throttling and fast lanes. We had issued a paper on OTT, and DoT had formed a committee on Net neutrality. So, all of this will work as inputs to our Consultation Paper. We need to decide our approach on Net neutrality at a national level because this is not just an issue for the TRAI. We will, of course, give policy inputs after going through the consultation process.

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