More reports on: Telecom

Trai moots common regulator for information and communications technology

03 February 2018

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has suggested the need of a converged regulator for information and communications technology (ICT) and broadcast sectors and the regulator itself should be restructured as a converged regulator for both.

Trai has also suggested that National Telecom Policy 2018 (NTP 2018) should be renamed as the Information and Communication Technologies Technology Policy 2018. The regulator had made the recommendations prior to the formulation of National Telecom Policy 2018.

At present, Trai has the powers to regulate tariff, interconnection and quality of services in the sector, while the information and broadcasting ministry is the nodal ministry for policy decisions, licensing and content regulation for the broadcast sector.

Trai proposed that delivery of broadcast services should be allowed using converged wireline and wireless networks, and cable TV networks should also be upgraded for delivery of converged broadcast and broadband services.

The regulator also wanted to review the concept of gross revenue of telecom operators and its underlining elements, apart from licence fee and spectrum usage charges structure.

''It may be appropriate to review the concept of gross revenue and its underlining elements. A number of issues related to gross revenue and adjusted gross revenue are being litigated at various forums and it is essential that these be resolved at the earliest,'' it said.

''Besides reviewing the licence fee and spectrum usage charges structure, there is a need to review the rates of such levies keeping in view the fact that the access spectrum is now being assigned through auction, and telecommunication networks have become underlying infrastructure for growth of digital economy,'' Trai said.

It said that the framework to calculate licence fee and spectrum usage charges was devised about two decades back. At this time, the telecom market was primarily a voice centric and telecom networks and services were tightly coupled, convergence of networks, services, and devices were non-existent.

Now the nature of market has changed from voice to data and service providers need to offer a package of services which may consist of many licensed, and some unlicensed services, Trai added.

Trai wants to ensure availability of bandwidth on demand through wireline, including cable TV and optical fibre networks, to 30 per cent households by 2020 and 50 per cent households by 2022.

It is also looking at providing at least 1 Gbps data connectivity to all gram panchayats to enable wireless broadband services to inhabitants by 2022 and achieve 900 million broadband subscriptions supporting download speed of 2 Mbps, out of that at least 150 million broadband subscriptions supporting download speed of 20 Mbps and 25 million at a download speed of 50 Mbps by 2022.

The NTP 2018 is expected to be announced by March-end.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has welcomed these recommendations.

''We support the suggestion of TRAI to name this policy document as Information and Communication Technology Policy-2018,'' it said.

''We strongly support the Trai's recommendations on simplifying the licensing and regulatory frameworks and rationalizing taxes, levies and related compliance by 2019 and we expect that the same would be done at the earliest, in this year itself. We hope that the simplification of compliance includes reduction in the multiple audits, which will save the cost and efforts of the operators,'' it added.

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