Author : VS Warrier
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was formed in Jan 1997 under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 with a view to provide an effective regulatory framuework and adequate safeguards to ensure fair competition and protection of consumer interests.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act was amended in the year 2000. The functions of the original TRAI have now been split between two bodies TRTelecom Regulatory Authority of IndiaAI and The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellant Tribunal (TDSAT). The TRAI has been assigned the recommendatory and regulatory functions and the dispute settlement functions are with TDSAT
Recommendatory functions of TRAI
Recommendatory functions of TRAI are as follows;
Need and timing for introduction of new service provider: This refers to the analysis of the existing scenario in relation to a specific service in a region. However, under the legal framework, there are no parameters to provide a basis for these recommendations.
Terms and conditions of license to service provider: TRAI is empowered to make recommendations as to the terms and conditions of licence to service providers. However, here as no parameters are specified to provide a basic guidelines for the minimum terms and conditions that could expected.
It may be specified here that it is mandatory for the central government to accept TRAI recommendations on above.
Revocation of license for non-compliance with its provision, however, as with the others there is no indication of the criteria to that would have to looked at while providing such recommendations.
Measures to facilitate competition and promote efficiency in operation of Telecom Services so as to facilitate growth in these services: This is again a positive provision if used specifically to made legal framework more responsive to the commercial development in the telecom sector and to ensure growth in the sector.
Technological improvement in the services provided by services providers: This indicates the desire to make TRAI responsible to the technological advancements in the telecom sector.
Type of equipment to be use by the service providers after inspection of equipment used in the network: This provision carries in it as inbuilt guidelines for its exercise, namely that of actual inspection of the equipment being used in the network. However scope of this provision is not clear.
Measures for development of technology and any other matter related to the telecom industry in general: The scope of this provision seems to be towards recommendations for measures for improving R&D with respect to telecom in India.
Efficient management of available spectrum: This deals with the issue of management and use of available frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Regulatory functions of TRAI
To ensure compliance of terms and conditions of license: – the TRAI can ensure compliance by either issuing directions or by recommending the termination of license for non-compliance. The powers of TRAI are limited in this regard any action under the license can be taken only by the licensor. TRAI would not have any jurisdiction to exercise any powers of licensor to enforce terms of license. There is however, no restriction on the nature of directions that can be issued by TRAI to service providers.
Fix the terms and conditions of inter connectivity between service providers this provision does away with the terms of license issued by union government (prior to TRAI Amendment Act, 2000) in which it was specifically stated that terms of interconnection would be specified by the govt.
Ensure technical compatibility and effective interconnection between different service providers. This function is twofold: one, to ensure technical compatibility between network and two, interconnection as it talks of effective interconnection.
Regulate arrangements amongst service providers for sharing their revenue derived from providing telecom services. The TRAI has the power to direct the service providers to alter the terms and conditions agreed to between them.
Lay down the standards of quality of service to be provided by the service providers: The TRAI is responsible for ensuring the quality of service provided by the service. It conducts periodical survey of such service provided by the service providers as to protect the interests of the consumers of the telecom service.
Lay down and ensure time period for providing local and long distance circuits of telecom between different service providers. This function is related to the function of stipulating the terms and conditions for provision of interconnection between service providers.
Maintain register of interconnection agreements and of all other matters as may be provided in the regulations. This function is again related to the regulation of interconnection.
To keep register maintained under Clause VII open for inspection to any member of public on payment of such fee and compliance of such other requirement as may be provided in the regulations
Ensure effective compliance of Universal Service Obligation (USO): The concept of USO is to make available the economic and social opportunities being offered by modern communications to all.