India's New Telecom Regulator Revealed

An industry veteran with first-hand experience dealing with India's service providers and telecom authorities, J. S. Sarma, is to be named as new chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) .

He will take over from A.K. Sawhney, a TRAI Member who has been holding the fort since the retirement of previous chairman Nripendra Misra on March 22. (See India's TRAI Left With Empty Chair.)

The appointment is noteworthy, because the position is one of the most important in India's communications market, which is experiencing dramatic growth in its mobile services sector and increasing interest from international investors. (See India Sets Subs Record and IndiaWatch: Game-Changin' Days.)

Sarma was formerly Chairman of India's Telecom Commission and is currently a member of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT). He is expected to take up his new post following the conclusion of his outstanding TDSAT cases.

Sarma will be immediately under the spotlight when he takes up his new post, as he was party to a recent TDSAT ruling that was heavily critical of TRAI for its lack of transparency when allocating additional 2G spectrum. (See Indian Tribunal Orders Spectrum Return.)

Sarma will face immediate challenges to lead TRAI through the continuing 3G and WiMax spectrum auction issues, a growing battle between broadcasters and telecom carriers over DTH (direct-to-home) TV service charging, and the rollout of telecommunications to rural areas, some of the hot topics identified in Light Reading's recent report: A Guide to India's Telecom Market.

Sarma was selected ahead of Yashwant Bhave, who served as additional secretary in the Department of Telecommunications, and S. D. Saxena, a member of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) 's board, who both made it onto the three-strong shortlist, according to a Televisionpoint report.

— Catherine Haslam, Asia Editor, Light Reading

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