New Delhi: The Department of Telecommunications notified an opening for the chairperson of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, signalling the end of incumbent RS Sharma’s tenure in about four months.
“The post of chairperson, Trai will be falling vacant on October 1, 2020. The tenure of the post is for a term not exceeding three years or till the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier,” the telecom department said in a notification on Friday.
Applicants for the top Trai job will be screened by a government-constituted search-cum-selection committee.
Sharma, a 1978 batch Indian Administrative Service officer, was appointed in August 2015 and his term was extended by two years in 2018, a day before he was to demit office. It was the first time that a Trai chairman was given a second term since the inception of the regulator in 1997.
During Sharma’s tenure as Trai chairman, Reliance Jio Infocomm started services in September 2016 and disrupted the markets, making voice calls almost free and sending data rates crashing to all-time lows. The competition led telcos to merge or exit the market, and currently there are three private operators from eight or nine earlier.
Trai was at the centre of bitter battles on issues such as pricing of services and interconnection usage charges, most of which went to court. There was also the dispute over points of interconnection between newcomer Jio and older players Bharti Airtel, and the then-separate Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. Vodafone India and Idea eventually merged in August 2018 to form Vodafone IdeaNSE 22.09 %.
Under Sharma, Trai came up with recommendations on net neutrality, underlining free and non-discriminatory access to the web, which have since been included in telecom licence conditions. In 2016, Trai effectively banned Facebook’s Free Basics service, which offered users free and limited access to the internet, saying it violated the principles of net neutrality.
Trai also tightened norms for quality of services and reining in unwanted calls and text messages.