Telecom has bright future, have full faith in professionalism of telcos: Outgoing TRAI chief R S Sharma


New Delhi: The telecom sector, backed by strong demand for services and its ability to adapt swiftly to changes even amid disruptions, has a bright future ahead, outgoing TRAI chief R S Sharma has said. Sharma said he has full confidence in professionalism of telecom operators, adding that he believes that “competition is the name of the game” and competitive pricing will continue in a free market economy.

“I have full faith in professionalism of the telecom operators. They are highly qualified and highly professional people managing technology and networks…These have been very disruptive times, from multiple angles, but I think the industry leaders are capable enough to come out (of) these disruptive times,” Sharma said.

While every sector has its share of “ups and downs” and “variations”, the telecom industry has steered through the disruptive period during the pandemic, managing not only the spike in demand but also changes in pattern of traffic, as network loads shifted from enterprise premises to homes, he said.

“Unlike some other sectors, the telecom sector has not suffered from lack of demand. It is shining and has an extremely good future. Everyone is managing it well, and it has a bright future ahead,” said Sharma, whose tenure at the helm of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is slated to end on September 30.

Competitive pricing will continue in a free market economy, Sharma said while pointing out that free market economy has also brought major benefits like greater efficiencies, better services and cost-effective measures.

“I believe that the market takes care of itself. If there is a free play in the market, we should believe in the free market system, and unless there is a market failure, one should not intervene,” he said.

Speaking in favour of “light-touch regulation”, Sharma said “unless there is a market failure, one should not regulate unnecessarily.”

Sharma, whose term at the helm of TRAI has been marked by many far-reaching, at times contentious, decisions, including that on free introductory services, points of interconnect, call connect charges and net neutrality, asserted that the regulator maintained an “absolutely objective approach” without any bias.

At times, its recommendations such as reduction of levies went down well with all stakeholders, while certain suggestions were opposed by a majority.

There were some decisions that were perceived to be harming certain players, while others saw it as benefiting them, Sharma said.

“When we take a decision, we don’t make a prior assessment as to who will benefit and who will not. We look at whatever is in the interest of the overall objectives set for TRAI and take those decisions,” Sharma said.

A rigorous and industry-wide consultation process preceded every decision made by the regulator, he noted.

“Sometimes we get flak from those who are harmed, and support from somebody who feels they have benefitted. Sometimes people make this out as a bias or not biased approach, which is a very unfair. Of course, we are humans, so we may make mistakes…I am not saying we are perfect…But from our view, we take decisions which are fair,” he said.

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