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TRAI to review procedural bottlenecks in telecom business

Regulator TRAI today stressed the need to identify bottlenecks that make the functioning of telecom business difficult in India and listed out processes such as licence acquisition, spectrum allotment and mergers that can be reviewed.

“The Authority is of the opinion that various processes that a telecom licensee is required to go through should be simplified and combined to the extent possible to economise on efforts on part of the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) as well as the government,” TRAI said.

The regulator said it is important to identify the “bottlenecks, obstacles or hindrances” that are making it difficult to do telecom business in India and thus, require “regulatory intervention”.

Some of the processes that could be up for review as part of “ease of doing telecom business” include procedures related to unified licence, including acquisition of licence, compliance with commercial, financial, technical conditions, and compliance with roll-out obligations, payment of licence fee, financial bank guarantee and performance bank guarantee, adding and surrendering authorisations under the licence.

Other issues outlined by TRAI include spectrum allotment and use, assignment and clearance process for the airwaves, approval process for spectrum trading and sharing.

As part of the process overhaul, TRAI would also look at the merger and acquisition policy, significantly so as the Indian telecom industry has been in a midst of consolidation

drive.

Last month, telecom operator Bharti Airtel announced it will acquire Norwegian Telenor’s India unit, signalling a fresh round of industry consolidation that has intensified in the wake of disruptive entry of newcomer Reliance Jio.

Vodafone and Idea have already said that they are considering merging their businesses in India, a move that would create the biggest telecom operator in the country with about USD 12 billion in sales.

Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications has already signed a pact to merge its wireless business with smaller rival Aircel.

Besides mergers and acquisition, TRAI will also consider streamlining processes for telecom services using satellite media, including clearances from INSAT Network Operations Control Center, and obtaining clearances from various authorities.

“In addition, there can be processes in other areas which may be requiring simplification…the stakeholders are requested to identify such areas of concern and review the existing processes and suggest mechanisms that ease the business activity,” TRAI said.

The industry will have to submit views by April 11, after which TRAI will “analyse them and if required, take further necessary action for simplification of processes”.