As Chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), R S Sharma is on a hot seat. In his less than a year tenure, despite major controversial issues like net neutrality and differential pricing, he has upheld the basic tenet of the TRAI Act — taking care of consumer interest and promote competition in a transparent manner. Amidst the challenges and controversies of a regulator, Sharma took time out to share his views with M Rajendran of TNIE, to promote digital and broadband growth in India. Excerpts:
How have the southern states pushed digital growth?
Traditionally , the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala have done well in the adoption of e-governance. They are the leading states in the application of technology in governance .It is a very big advantage. With digital India thrust, I am sure they will do very well and help in the increased ranking of India in the e-governance index.
So you feel they have better platform to take off.
In any place, existence of an eco-system is of an advantage. Let us take Karnataka. Bengaluru has established itself as the hub for IT, globally and that involves development of complete infrastructure. Around that many big institutions develop and help their further growth and also develop human resources. Other states have found this to be a major handicap. Availability of qualified people with requisite knowledge and experience is important. Hyderabad and Chennai are at great advantage in these parameters.
Do you think electronic manufacturing in south will repeat the same success as software?
It is true that closure of Nokia plant in Chennai upset many, who saw it as a manufacturing success story. But the recent growth of electronic manufacturing clusters in Andhra Pradesh and Telengana has helped in providing employment. It was possible, because these sates had developed the requisite manpower for electronic manufacturing industry.
As a regulator of telecom sector, what are the major issues?
Maintaining quality of service parameters is important for satisfaction of consumers, who are paying for it. Further, it is important that we facilitate in helping the industry to perform. In that context, we are working on the licensing conditions and infrastructure that will push the data growth across the country. This is necessary for digital India to succeed. Development of Bharatnet and making spectrum available for commercial purpose, is important for customers to get better voice and data services in the country. We are hopeful that the regulations around cable TV connections as carrier of high speed data will take off soon.
What about reducing the data tariff?
There is adequate competition in the market and the mechanism will ensure that the customers get the best price and better service. The same technology is available to all the operators, but those who invest in the infrastructure, customers will get better services at lower cost.