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“Classic example of old wine in a new bottle”: Airtel on Jio’s new tariff packs

Hitting back at Reliance Jio’s new tariff packs, post TRAI’s intervention, rival telco Airtel said that “it (Jio’s new pack) violates the TRAI directive and essentially continues with a similar plan now masquerading under a different name.” “This is a classic example of old wine in a new bottle. We hope that the authority will act against this provocative disregard of their direction,” Airtel added.

After TRAI initially advised Jio to pull back its Summer Surprise offer that gave 3 months of free data and calls as complimentary, the telco then relaunched a new tariff pack named ‘Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan offer’. At that time, we pointed out that the new plan does not differ much when compared to the previous plan. The new pack provided the same three-month free usage but at an initial fee of Rs 309 or Rs 509. The new pack is valid for 90 days and not 28 days in case of the Summer Surprise offer.

Airtel further added that the telecom industry is in a “very weak position” and that the financial impact due to losses in revenue “does no good in the long term to customers.” “With a weakened financial position, companies will find it difficult to raise the capital to invest and roll out broadband networks. In this context, we are surprised to see what Jio is doing,” Airtel added.

Note that government’s revenue generation from telecom sector had fallen significantly since the launch of Jio as telcos continue to bleed out from tariff wars and ongoing consolidation.

A timeline of Jio v/s incumbents

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Note that Jio and the incumbent operators have sparred over several issues in the past:

Network speeds: Jio had complained to advertising regulator ASCI last month stating that Airtel’s claim that it is the fastest network in India in an Ookla-sponsored ad was “false, misleading and incorrect.” Airtel had responded saying that company was “amused by the allegations being made” against it. More here.

Promo packs: Airtel and Idea had earlier filed cases against Jio in January claiming that TRAI was “perpetuating illegality” by allowing Jio to “game” the interconnection regulation with its free calls and data offer. TRAI informed a special court that Jio did not violate any regulations. The court then requested TRAI to re-examine its stance, and an order is still pending on the case. More here.

-Point Of Interconnection
: This was probably the most unpleasant scuffling between telcos. Jio had put of press statements claiming that incumbent telcos Airtel, Idea and Vodafone were blocking interconnection points to Jio, leading to crores of call drops on a daily basis on its network. Rivals, however, maintained that it has been releasing PoIs and that it was Jio delaying installation of the interconnection devices. Rivals also alleged that the freebies were “choking” points of interconnection, and “impairing” quality of service of other operators once More here.

Voting rights at COAI:  Between all these scuffles, Jio wrote a detailed letter to Airtel’s Chairman and COAI board members claiming that COAI’s internal rules and voting rights favour only three “incumbent dominant operators” namely Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea, who allegedly command 68% of COAI’s total votes. COAI then accused Mukesh Ambani-led telco of being “slanderous, mischievous” for labeling established incumbent operators. More here.

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