TRAI slaps Rs. 3050 crore fine on Airtel, Vodafone and Idea

By Deepak Bhadana | Published on Oct 24 2016
TRAI slaps Rs. 3050 crore fine on Airtel, Vodafone and Idea

The Telcos are being fined for their failure to release adequate Points of Interconnection (PoIs) for Reliance Jio

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended a fine of Rs. 3050 crores on three telecom majors in India; Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular for refusing to provide adequate Points of Interconnection (PoIs) to new entrant Reliance Jio. Jio has claimed that the refusal of PoIs has resulted in a call failure rate of over 75% on the Jio network. The maximum permitted call failure rate is 0.5%. Jio had earlier accused the telcos of deliberately withholding interconnection points, through which a call from one network connects to another.

The Business Standard quoted a letter sent to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) which stated that the regulatory body had suggested a fine of Rs 1050 crores each for Vodafone India and Bharti Airtel at the rate of Rs 50 crores per zone for 21 zones, except for Jammu and Kashmir. Idea Cellular has been fined Rs 950 crores for 19 zones except for Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and the north-eastern states. 

TRAI added that it stopped short of revoking the licenses of the three companies, keeping in mind the inconvenience it would cause customers. Furthermore the regulatory body stated that the refusal to provide PoIs to Jio seemed to be motivated by the desire to stifle Jio’s services and termed their actions as “anti consumer.”

“However, the authority is mindful of the fact that revocation of the licence will entail significant consumer inconvenience and therefore in view of the larger public interest involved, the authority recommends a penal action of Rs 50 crore per LSA (circle)…,” the letter stated. 

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular had earlier argued that they had released adequate PoIs and any failure in Jio’s network was due to Jio’s lack of preparedness before launching its product. BS quoted an Airtel Spokesperson who stated, “We are continuously augmenting the PoIs provided to Reliance Jio and the pace of augmentation has been the fastest ever done by us. Further, we are in full compliance of the requirements of grade of service set by Trai.”

Earlier this month Jio had written to its rivals asking them to release PoIs which were long overdue. In its letters, Jio stated, “As you are aware, you never adhered to the schedule for providing E1s (PoIs) under one pretext or the other and this continues to date.” It added, “None of the pretexts raised by you have any standing based on facts or on law inasmuch as your obligation to provide the requisite E1s to meet the QoS regulations are not contingent on any reasons or restrictions.” The letter stated that the call failures would continue so long as Jio’s demands for PoIs are not met. In June, Jio had asked for PoIs for estimated 22 million subscribers. It had also projected that the network would host as many as 50 million customers by September 2016, 75 million by December 2016 and 100 million subscribers by March 2017. 

Deepak Bhadana

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