The signal from Trai’s advice is one of persisting legacies, both of bureaucratic mindsets prone to ad hocism and of submission to political lobbying.
The regulator could have set the tone for spectrum efficiency in the widely used 2G technology. But instead of suggesting a real shift —auctioning this highly-in-demand resource, it settled for minor, ad hoc hikes in the current fee regime. And even as it spoke of telecom licences being technology-neutral, it “favoured” high switching costs between CDMA and GSM services—by telling the former to join the lengthy queue for spectrum. A clear recommendation on auctioning would have forced both incumbents and new entrants to value spectrum appropriately. It is particularly ironical that Trai diffused the debate by referring the issue to a proposed panel of bureaucrats and interested parties.
Sadly, there’s no surprise, given the pressure from incumbants in the GSM space. So, what happens to the regulator’s real role?