Rahul Khullar has been appointed the chairman of The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), taking over this position from the outgoing chairman J S Sarma who retired yesterday, reports Moneycontrol.com. Khullar is expected to serve as the TRAI chairman for the next three years until May 2015. Note that no official announcement has been made on the TRAI’s website yet, but the news is being reported by several publications.
Prior to this appointment, Rahul Khullar was India’s commerce secretary, and had also served in the Prime Minister’s office during 1985-1990 and during 1991-1993, he served as the private secretary to the then finance minister (now Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh and was involved in the initiation of India’s economic reforms.
This announcement comes at a significant time when TRAI is facing heat over its auction recommendations, and India’s telecom sector is in a state of considerable flux following the cancellation of 122 licenses by the Supreme court in February this year. In April 2012, TRAI had recommended higher base auction prices of 2G spectrum in 22 circles, and suggested that the auction of spectrum should be conducted in multiple rounds and should be open to all incumbents holding CMTS/UAS licenses, but not to those that hold spectrum above the prescribed limit. Besides this, TRAI had also proposed refarming of spectrum in the 900 MHz band, which is considered to be more cost effective band for telecom operators, asking operators to surrender existing spectrum and pay more for the licenses in the 1800 Mhz spectrum.
Following these recommendations, COAI(Cellular Operators Association of India) and AUSPI(Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India) had disapproved these recommendations terming them as being arbitrary, regressive and inconsistent. Telecom CEOs had also expressed their concerns about the TRAI’s proposed auction plan in a rare joint press conference held by the top management of five telecom operators – Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Videocon, and Telenor India, indicating that the impact on tariffs would be significant for consumers.
Outgoing TRAI chairman J S Sarma however stuck to TRAI’s existing recommendations on spectrum pricing and re-farming but suggested the government to double the spectrum made available for auction to 10 Mhz.