Even as cellular operators have expressed dissatisfaction over TRAI's recommendations on the issue of fresh licences in the sector, the regulator today said "need and timing" factors for new players would be decided by the market.
"Our policy is clear that we are in favour of open competition. The question is not that there should be only four or five players but they (operators) want to ensure which five. That in my opinion is not correct," TRAI chairman M S Verma told PTI.
Questioning cellular operators' objections on the "need and timing" issues for entry of new players in the sector, Verma said, "Should the market not decide?"
"The market has matured in our opinion and need and timing would be decided by the market," Verma said.
Countering the argument that worldwide the number of mobile operators were restricted to four or five, Verma said, "Maybe that would be true here (in India) also. But the question is which five..."
Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had yesterday expressed dissatifaction over TRAI's latest recommendations on the issue of fresh licences in the sector, saying there was no business case for new players in the market at a time when even existing operators were facing huge accumulated losses.
Director-General of COAI, T V Ramachandran had said the regulator had not addressed crucial issues such as need and timing while giving its views on the subject.
Verma said that TRAI had already clarified that entry of new operator in cellular arena could be considered subject to spectrum availibility, and added "if spectrum is available, the market should be opened."
COAI had said it would soon write to TRAI and Department of Telecom (DOT) to raise these issues.
Cellular operators had said with regard to "need" for introduction of new licences, it was amply evident that there was an "oversupply" of mobile services in the country and the tariffs were also the lowest in the world, and hence there was no requirement for new players at this point of time.
On the issue of timing for new licences, Ramachandran had said the crucial question that should have been answered by TRAI was whether the market would bear any new operators.
Ramachandran had said telecom regulator should have gone into issues like whether the economic viability of the telecom sector would improve with more players.
Replying to another query on whether the basic operators were allowed to offer facility of roaming to customers on WLL services, Verma said, "I do not want to comment, because words are being given different meanings..."In TRAI's view these were distinct services, he pointed out.