Unfazed by industry's criticism of some past decisions, TRAI chairman R S Sharma has asserted that the regulator is not into a PR role, but is, rather, doing its job transparently with wide stakeholder consultation in the interest of consumers and the sector. In his first interview after winning a second term at the helm of TRAI, Sharma said legal options are available for anyone not happy with a particular regulation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
"I don't think we are into a PR (public relations) exercise...we are doing our jobs to best of our capabilities. There may be situations where some stakeholders may not be happy with the decision we take, and I have maintained that appropriate forum to challenge these is the legal forum," Sharma told in a recent interaction.
The approach of TRAI has never been one of taking arbitrary action, and each and every decision, order, or regulation has been backed by "full consultation and full transparency", he noted.
"We don't do anything without consultation or dialogue. But our purpose is not to establish PR. Our purpose is to do our job effectively...," Sharma said.
His comments assume significance as TRAI's past decisions from slashing of call connect charges, to its stance on provision of points of internet (sought by Reliance Jio at the start of its services), and predatory pricing rules have come under blistering attack by established operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular.
Earlier this year, TRAI's predatory pricing rules sparked off a furore as older players and industry body Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) slammed the new norms. The COAI had indicated that the order distorted the market, placing all operators, except one (it had not named Reliance Jio) at a serious disadvantage.
The fiery TRAI chief has firmly stood his ground all through and maintained that while he takes telecom industry's 'fair criticism' in his stride, the levelling of allegations of bias without any proof bothers him as it discredits and lowers the institution's esteem.
"TRAI is a vibrant organisation and we are a regulator who has a certain standing in the world. We are proud of that legacy. The organisation will continue to take forward the agenda," Sharma said outlining the work done by the regulator in areas like net neutrality, data privacy and machine-to-machine communication and others.
The regulator plans to hold internal meetings to take stock of outstanding issues against the backdrop of the agenda that had been set at the beginning of the calendar year 2018. The calibration of pending issues and new, emerging ones will be done over the next few weeks, Sharma added.
COAI has urged the TRAI chairman to outline his major focus areas and priorities for the next two years, so the industry can look to "predictable" and stable regulatory environment" crucial for its growth.
The industry body -- which has, in the past, been severely critical of major TRAI decisions under Sharma's watch -- has further said that the industry is seeking from the regulator a relationship of "trust, information sharing and predictability".