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Reliance Jio is once again complaining about its users not being able to properly communicate with those on an Airtel network. A Reliance Jio spokesperson explained to MediaNama that currently (for example), the way interconnection points have been opened up by Airtel for Jio, if there are 100 calls taking place, the capacity to carry calls has been split in a way that half will be incoming and half will be outgoing calls. This means that even though (for example) 80% of the calls between the two are from Jio to Airtel, the capacity available for these calls will still only be 50%. So on one side, calls will drop, while on the other, the capacity will be under-utilised. In a two way interconnect, capacity will be allocated based on actual flow of traffic. Jio says that over 280 crore calls have failed in the past 3 months between the two operators.

Airtel, on the other hand, hasn’t commented on the nature of the interconnects, saying only that it is “sufficient to serve over 75 million customers, based on the forecast provided by Jio to Airtel”, and “more than 2.5 times the number provided to an existing operator with a comparable subscriber base.” That doesn’t address the issue of difference in traffic flow, which is anyway going to be significantly higher for Jio, which has free calling.

The interconnection issue timeline

On August 11th: After alleging that recent TRAI consultations on Interconnection charges favored new entrants, COAI lashed out against  Jio’s network trails stating that the amount of traffic being generated from the Jio trials are “choking” points of interconnection, and “impairing” quality of service of other operators.

On September 13th: Idea pledged to add an additional 196 POIs in order to handle 1.85 million more customers from Jio where calls originate. Some data from them: in August 2016, 2.97 million Jio subscribers called Idea’s network, and there was an asymmetry of traffic of 14.5 times between Jio and their network. Airtel said that with its upgrade, it will be able to serve 15 million customers but did not give out a specific number of POIs.

On September 15th: Jio claims that over 22 crore calls from Jio’s subscribers have failed while interconnecting with Airtel’s network, while 52 crore calls have failed in total while interconnecting with three incumbent operators combines viz. Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea.

On September 16th: Jio accused Vodafone India of being anti-competitive and said that it hasn’t provided enough points of interconnect (POIs) for voice calls on their network. It said that over 80 calls were failing out of every 100 call attempts to Vodafone, adding that“In the last 10 days alone, over 15 crore RJIL calls have failed on the Vodafone network”.

On September 18th: Airtel says PoIs have to be tested and connected, but Jio “seems to be dilly-dallying on the issue and not cooperating deliberately. It appears that the constant rhetoric may be a ploy by Jio to cover up some technical issues in their own network, which is causing call failures, by constantly blaming other operators. In addition, call drops or the lack of VoLTE stabilization should not be hidden behind the issue of POIs, which are being augmented at regular and quick intervals.”

On September 20th: Jio releases data saying that “hardly any new interconnection capacity has been made operational”, and that it needs 4,000 – 5,000 E1s per operator for the three incumbent operators. Jio mentioned 10 crore call failures per day between RJIL and the three incumbent operators.

On September 23rd: Jio claimed that over 750 calls per 1,000 are failing per day between Idea and Jio networks, which translates to 4 crore calls failing per day. “Only 50 new E1s have been operationalised by Idea in the last 10 days as a result of which call failure rate has been increasing drastically,” Jio added.

On September 27th: Bharti Airtel said that Jio’s sea call failures is taking place due to the Jio’s “under- preparedness and insufficient testing efforts,” according to a TelecomTalk report. The main reason for such call failures was due to Jio’s acquisition of large number of subscribers even before the commencement of its commercial launch, Airtel added.

On September 27th: Jio responded stating that “Airtel’s contention that the congestion has been caused by large-scale subscriber acquisition by RJIL is not only unreasonable but also anti-competitive.” It added that Jio has is “completely ready” to accept augmentation of PoIs from Airtel’s network and its transmission media has been up and operation for several months and that Jio-to-Jio calls have been running without any failures.

On September 28th: TRAI decided to step in and hold a meeting with all telecom operators to discuss about the Interconnection issue. The meeting held on September 30th also discussed some alleged tariff violation by Jio.

On October 24th: TRAI recommends 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 Jio.

On October 27th: TRAI issued a consultation paper asking whether a standardized interconnect agreement be mandated in case two telcos fail to mutually negotiate the terms and conditions of interconnection.

On November 3rd: TRAI requests Airtel, Vodafone and Idea to “mutually” resolve issue of interconnection with Reliance Jio, according to this PTI report. The decision came after TRAI’s Chariman R S Sharma held a meeting with operators over the issue