Bharti Airtel has filed a new petition with the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) alleging that telecom regulator TRAI was “perpetuating illegality” by allowing Reliance Jio to “game” the interconnection regulation with its free calls and data offer, reports Economic Times. Airtel mentioned that TRAI has “tacitly” allowed Jio to break existing regulations and has termed the promo offers as “anti-competitive” in its filing.
In its earlier filing with the TDSAT (pdf), Airtel said that Jio’s promo offers were offered beyond the prescribed period of 90 days (as set by TRAI). Airtel also requested the tribunal to quash TRAI’s October 20th 2016 ruling which said that tariffs and promo offers being offered by Jio were complaint with current regulations.
Currently, a telco pays 14 paise per minute as interconnection charge to the interconnecting telco or the operator on which a call terminates on. Allowing Jio to provide free calls is “gaming of the IUC regime (and) is detrimental to consumer interest as it leads to uninformed decision making by the consumer in the wake of an unstable regulatory tariff regime,” Airtel said in its petition, according to the report. The interconnection fee that Airtel received from Jio is not sufficient to cover the costs incurred on setting up and handling additional interconnection points, Airtel added.
Reliance Jio’s free services “are thus nothing but a device to ensure that competition is wiped out eventually as the other TSPs (telcos) will bleed to death,” Airtel said in its filing. TRAI has however requested additional time to examine Jio’s recently announced promo offer that is extended up till March 2017, without responding to Airtel’s comments.
The Interconnection issue so far
Last month, Vodafone had filed a petition in the Delhi High Court challenging TRAI’s Rs 1050 crore penalty applied on Vodafone for allegedly violating license norms by denying interconnection points to new telco entrant Reliance Jio. The battle however goes back to August after telecom lobby association COAI went against Jio’s network trails stating that the amount of traffic being generated from the Jio trials are “choking” points of interconnection (PoI), and “impairing” quality of service of other operators.
Jio went on to claim that crores of calls were failing while interconnecting with Airtel, Idea, and Vodafone, while the incumbent operators claimed to have released adequate PoIs to Jio and that it was Jio who was delaying optimization of the PoIs released. A timeline of this is here.