New Delhi: India’s telecom regulator has called for a meeting on 30 September to discuss alleged violations of tariff norms by Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (R-Jio) as the fight between incumbent telcos and the aggressive new entrant moves to another stage.
The dispute is likely over R-Jio’s offer of free data to customers till the end of the year. The incumbents claim that under current tariff norms, a telco can’t offer freebies beyond 90 days.
On Tuesday, a top Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) official said on condition of anonymity that incumbent telcos have blocked calls from the R-Jio network to theirs, based on data submitted by them.
“It is a sad situation. The incumbents are not letting the new entrant play in the market. The kind of allegations put (forth) by Jio are true as the data suggests that incumbents are competing unfairly,” this person added.
Reliance had previously claimed that the call failure rate at so-called points of interconnection (PoIs), where calls from one network move to another, is very high.
After some back and forth between Reliance and incumbent telcos, represented by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), Trai asked for data on congestion at PoIs between 15 and 19 September. On Monday, the regulator said the call failure rate was as high as 84% in some cases, but stopped short of drawing the obvious inference from this.
Emphasizing that the licensing conditions make it mandatory for telcos to provide adequate PoIs and also to comply with quality of service norms of not more than 0.5% call failure rate at PoIs, the official cited above said: “The data submitted by the telcos suggests the call failure rate is as high as 84% (in some cases) and this is only because of PoI issue, not because of weak network of new entrant.”
Trai will issue show cause notices to incumbents seeking an explanation this week. The telcos are expected to respond in a week from the date of notice.
While Vodafone India Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd refused to comment on the issue, Bharti Airtel pointed to a 26 September letter it wrote to R-Jio where it attributed the latter’s “under preparedness and insufficient testing teams/efforts for delay” in augmentation of PoI given by Airtel to Jio.
In its letter, Bharti Airtel continued to complain about the asymmetric traffic between the two networks and the financial burden caused by it. “Currently, 89% of traffic originating from RJIO network is being terminated into Airtel network, thereby creating asymmetry in traffic.”
The Trai official said, “If there wasn’t an asymmetry why would there be an interconnection usage charge (IUC). The very fact that there is IUC supposes that there will be some kind of asymmetry, and an operator earns out of that asymmetry. There is no stipulation regarding the extent of asymmetry in the regulations.”
The current IUC regime asks an operator to pay 14 paise per minute to the other operator for handling calls.
Mint reported last week that Trai could levy a penalty of up to Rs50 crore on errant telcos.
In a Tuesday statement, Reliance claimed that there are still 16 million calls from its network to Bharti’s that fail everyday. The company also denied that it had been slow to work with Bharti on augmenting the PoIs. The company said it “has been consistently following-up with Airtel and the other incumbent operators over the last several months for augmentation of interconnection capacity.”
Press Trust of India contributed to this story.