India’s telecom regulator TRAI has recommended the DoT to impose a combined penalty of Rs 3050 crore on Airtel, Idea and Vodafone, as these operators were found to “willfully violate the license conditions” by denying Points of Interconnection to new entrant Reliance Jio. TRAI proposed Rs 50 crore penalty per circle for 21 circles of Airtel; Rs 50 crore in penalty for Vodafone in each of its 21 circles; and Rs 50 crore per circle as penalty for Idea in 19 circles.
The regulator had asked the three operators to furnish information regarding traffic and congestion on the PoIs with Jio on a daily basis since 30th September. On the basis of this information forwarded by Airtel, Idea, and Vodafone, TRAI noted that the percentage of failed call attempts during busy hours with Jio was “exorbitantly high…thus Airtel/Idea/Vodafone has failed meet benchmarks for PoI congestion” as prescribed in the license and regulations regarding Quality of Service.
According to the authority, licenses condition under Unified License regime mandate to provide adequate interconnection to all telecom service providers, and that the parameter of congestion at an individual PoI shall not be greater than 0.5%. This has led to a large numbers of Jio subscribers being denied Quality of Service, TRAI said. It added that Airtel, Idea, and Vodafone with representation from COAI attempted to “stifle competition in the market and willfully violate license conditions”.
In addition, TRAI pointed out that the three operators has failed to comply with Unified License norms which could have resulted in revocation of license. But it has instead recommended the penalty “in view of larger public interest”.
Note that in a letter to TRAI, Airtel pointed out that provisioning of PoIs can only be done post launch of (Jio’s) commercial services. To this, TRAI reiterated stating that Jio had informed their (PoI) requirements well before commercial launch, and that operators should be complying with existing regulations regarding interconnection.
“…the arguments cited by Airtel with regard to non-intimation of the date of commercial launch etc. are primarily commercial and inter-operator issues and these grounds cannot be used for non-compliance of terms and condition of the License and Regulations issued by them Authority,” TRAI added.
‘We are disappointed with the penalty’: COAI
Talking to PTI, COAI’s director General Rajan Mathews said that the penalties recommended by TRAI “is not a trivial amount” and the association is “disappointed” with large amount being imposed. DoT is yet to decide whether the fine is appropriate or not, he added.
“The matter is between individual operators and Trai. We were not privy to the showcase notice by Trai or subsequent responses. We were not involved with details of the matter…it is bilateral…we will wait to see DOT’s response on the matter…DOT will have to review and decide,” Rajan was quoted as saying to PTI.
COAI and Jio had earlier clashed regarding interconnection
Earlier, in August the COAI had lashed out against Reliance Jio’s network trails that had onboarded 1.5 million ‘test subscribers’. The amount of traffic being generated from the Jio trials are “choking” Points of Interconnection “impairing” quality of service of other operators, alleged COAI in a letter addressed to the DoT. To this, Jio had reiterated in its letter to DoT stating that other operators, “instead of augmenting the PoIs, are blocking PoI augmentation, on various unreasonable grounds.” More here.