Reliance Jio free services: Airtel accuses Trai of being ‘mute spectator’

Airtel has accused Trai of attempting to wipe out competition by acting as a ‘mute spectator’ to Reliance Jio’s move to extend free services


The TDSAT has asked Trai to revert to it on the Airtel-Reliance Jio free services matter in next 10 days. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
The TDSAT has asked Trai to revert to it on the Airtel-Reliance Jio free services matter in next 10 days. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi: India’s largest telecom services provider (TSP) Bharti Airtel Ltd has filed an additional affidavit with the telecom appellate tribunal, accusing the sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) of attempting to wipe out competition by acting as a “mute spectator” to Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd’s move to extend free services.

“Free services being offered by the said TSP (Jio) are ex-facie predatory as they have been introduced solely to drive out competition rather than encourage it...,” Airtel said in its affidavit filed before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on 9 January.

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“Trai has failed to act against the said TSP, and is in fact allowing its own orders to be violated by the said TSP, which continues to offer illegal free services in spite of Trai’s direction. This will lead to wiping out the competition in the market and is thus against the interest of the telecom industry,” it said.

On 23 December, Airtel first moved the TDSAT. In its 25-page petition, it asked the quasi-judicial body to direct Trai to ensure that Jio does not provide its free voice and data plan beyond 31 December.

It alleged that violation of Trai’s tariff orders has been continuing since March 2016, causing “significant prejudice and day-to-day loss” to it and “affecting its network” as it has to bear asymmetric traffic due to the free call offer by Jio. Jio first launched an inaugural free voice and data plan beginning 4 September and later extended it till 31 March.

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The TDSAT bench asked Trai to take a decision on the matters raised by Bharti and revert to it in the next 10 days. Trai has sought more time to inspect the matter.

In its latest affidavit, Airtel said Reliance Jio is transferring the cost to other operators and Trai is allowing it by not acting according to its own regulations and as it has been mandated under the Trai Act.

“Free services are leading to tsunami-like traffic volume and consequently, the outgoing/incoming traffic is manipulated to a staggering 20:1 from the normative 1:1, which is the standard assumption behind the IUC (interconnection usage charge) regime...,” Airtel said, adding this means that Jio’s customers need not hang up and both parties are talking without any charges.

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“This is resulting in completely transferring the burden of the said TSP’s “free services” on to the other TSPs (IUC being only 14 paisa and being below cost as per Trai’s own calculations) and the other TSPs are being made to do the said TSP’s backend work and lose approximately 36 paisa, being the difference between the outgoing rate and and IUC rate for the diverted traffic,” Airtel said.

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