QoS issue: Trai firm on decision to levy Rs3,050 crore fine on Airtel, Idea, Vodafone
New Delhi: The telecom regulator on Wednesday refused to reconsider its October 2016 order imposing fines adding up to Rs3,050 crore on the country’s top three telcos, citing wilful violation of quality of service (QoS) norms possibly with the “ulterior motive to stifle competition”.
The telecom department had asked the regulator on Wednesday to reconsider the order.
Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone India Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd deliberately delayed in providing sufficient points of interconnect (PoIs) as requested by rival Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) wrote to the Department of Telecom (DoT) on Wednesday.
Following a complaint by Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited, Trai had ordered the three telcos to pay Rs50 crore per circle for blocking calls made from Jio phones.
In three separate letters—one each over Airtel, Vodafone and Idea—to DoT, Trai said these telcos were capable of providing PoIs at much shorter notices, in some instances within three days. “In this context, the denial and delay in providing PoIs when the QoS parameters were not being met cannot be explained in any other manner but wilful,” it said.
“Thus, the authority does not deem it appropriate to reconsider its views on the matter,” it added.
Trai said as per information received from the telcos, there was a significantly high rate of failure of call attempts during busy hours on PoIs with Reliance Jio in most of the licensed spectrum access (LSA). Clearly, the steps taken by the three telcos “were not sufficient to bring down the PoI congestion to the desired level of 0.5% in most of the LSAs”, it said.
Incumbents “appeared to have ulterior motive to stifle competition”, Trai said.
The Mukesh Ambani-promoted Reliance Jio and the three telcos sparred over PoIs —where calls are handed over from one network to another —immediately after Jio launched its services in September 2016.
While Jio claimed that the incumbent telcos did not provide it with enough PoIs, Airtel has said Jio was creating an unnecessary controversy to mask its inadequacies.
The authority said it had been monitoring the PoI congestion and call failure data for over three months. It had frequently obtained the PoI congestion data from all operators and Reliance Jio was in any case submitting daily data for POI congestion and call failures.
While PoI congestion data would be available from all operators, call failure data would only come from the operator at whose end calls would be failing, Trai pointed out. “The authority took into account the submission of all telecom service providers during this period. The authority monitored such data and checked frequently and then arrived at its conclusion,” it said.
An Airtel spokesperson said his company disagreed with Trai’s observations, adding the penalty was recommended on the basis of an incorrect assessment of the situation on ground.
“We request the DoT to reject these recommendations and take into consideration the actions taken on ground by Bharti Airtel. The fact is that we have provided PoIs to Jio at an unprecedented pace despite the provision of 90 days in the licence,” it added.
Vodaone and Idea refused to comment.