The 90-day absence in appointing a new chairperson for the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is blocking recommendations for crucial issues like the assignment methods for satellite spectrum and regulation for OTT communication from coming out. Per an analysis conducted by businessline, this is the first time that a TRAI chairperson has not been named for such a long period.

Sources aware of the appointment process told businessline that the former TRAI chair, PD Vaghela was supposed to renew his term as the chairperson, but he decided to not continue in the post at the eleventh hour. Since then, it appears that the government is scrounging for a replacement. 1988-batch IAS officer, S Aparna was another serious contender for the post. However, the Centre eventually decided against appointing her as the TRAI chairperson.

Private sector execs

It was reported in June that the Centre is open to appointing the chairperson from the private sector. If the Centre goes through with this, the regulator will have a head from the private sector for the first time. To that end, sources told businessline that an executive from Tata was also being evaluated. Likely candidates from Tata eligible for the post include TCS COO, N Ganapathy Subramaniam, who is heading TCS’ contract with BSNL at present; Rakesh Mehrotra former regulatory head for Tata Teleservices; and Praveen Sharma, VP and Head, India Regulatory Affairs at Tata Communications.

Another industry insider told businessline that the likely reason why a candidate from Tata is being considered tmay be attributed to Tata’s recent success in securing numerous government contracts. This is particularly evident in their ongoing project to implement BSNL’s 4G and 5G network.

TRAI is sitting on recommendations for some of the most crucial issues for the industry. Sources at the TRAI told businessline that the regulator has prepared recommendations on the issue of allotting spectrum through auction or administrative assignment, however those have not been published for some reason. Similarly recommendations that are crucial for the OTT sector are also pending – wherein telcos and internet companies are debating on the issue of setting up a network fee for internet companies. 

Without a TRAI chair, the regulator is unlikely to come out with recommendations on these matters.