Trai says rivals blocked Reliance Jio calls, recommends Rs3,050 crore fine
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Friday recommended penal action against the country’s top three telcos, to the extent of Rs50 crore per circle, for deliberately blocking calls made from new operator Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd’s (Jio) network.
Trai drew up three separate letters for Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular Ltd and sent them to the department of telecommunications (DoT). In the letters, the regulator recommends a Rs50 crore penalty on each of Vodafone’s 21 circles, Airtel’s 21 circles, and Idea’s 19 circles, where points of interconnect (PoI) congestion exceeded the permissible limit of 0.5%.
Trai found these telcos to be deliberately blocking Reliance Jio calls in these circles. The total penalty proposed to be levied on the three telcos is Rs3,050 crore.
It opted against recommending cancellation of licences, keeping in mind the significant consumer inconvenience such revocation would entail.
It found the telcos to be “in non-compliance of the terms and conditions of licence, and denial of interconnection to RJIL (Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd) appears to be with ulterior motive to stifle competition and is anti-consumer”.
Trai added that the acts of the incumbents are “against public interest”.
Mint on 23 September first reported that these companies run the risk of having to fork out penalties up to Rs50 crore for each circle, besides facing the risk of having their licences cancelled, if the telecom regulator finds that they are deliberately blocking calls.
“We had issued show-cause notices to three companies for PoI (point of interconnect) congestion. They were not giving the PoIs to the new entrant. We have written to the DoT today recommending penal action against these telcos,” a top official at Trai said on condition of anonymity.
The Mukesh Ambani-promoted Reliance Jio and the top three telcos in the country have been sparring over PoIs, where calls are handed over from one network to another.
While Jio claims that the incumbent telcos have not provided it with enough PoIs, Bharti Airtel has said that Reliance Jio is creating an unnecessary controversy to mask inadequacies in its own service.
”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,” an Airtel spokesperson said.
Spokespersons for Vodafone India and Idea did not respond to emails