The price of radio spectrum is not the primary determinant of mobile phone tariffs, said Rahul Khullar, Chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), on Monday.

Speaking at an interactive session organised by the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI), Mr. Khullar said, “The price of spectrum is not what is causing grief to the industry.”

He said although telecom service providers are under “tremendous pressure”, the source of their problems lies in the problems caused by “legacy decisions” taken by the service providers in the past.

“These decisions do not have anything to do with spectrum prices,” he asserted. They relate to the service providers’ choice of technologies and their estimate of the demand for their services, in particular, the demand for 3G services.

Sourcing assets

Decisions related to sourcing assets from overseas or from within the country also had a bearing on their costs, Mr. Khullar said. “These decisions, and a host of others, have a bearing on mobile telephony tariffs, not the price of spectrum alone,” Mr. Khullar said.

Asked whether the government was justified in overruling TRAI’s recommendation that the base price of 5 Mhz of spectrum be priced at Rs. 18,000 crore (it was brought down to Rs. 14,000 crore), Mr. Khullar said, “Our decision is not mandatory, the government is free to modify our suggestion,” Asked if the industry had aired its objections to TRAI’s recommendation, he said, “We have done our analysis, but I regret to say that industry has not raised specific objections.”

Referring to the fears of radiation, Mr. Khullar said, “While the issue cannot be pushed under the carpet, we need to look at it rationally and scientifically.” He said the Department of Telecommunications is “in the process” of revising safety standards that are based on standards being adopted in Europe.

Mr. Khullar said TRAI would ensure that mobile operators observe minimum standards of quality of service in rural areas. FKCCI president K. Shiva Shanmugam called for a clampdown by TRAI on unwanted calls and SMSs from telemarketers.

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