New Delhi: Industry body Cellular Operators Association of India’s on Saturday returned fire in the ongoing stand off with Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, saying its “differences" are with regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s orders, not with a specific operator, and it is duty-bound as an association to raise concerns on growth of the sector.

The rebuttal comes after Reliance Jio termed as “defamatory" and “malicious" recent allegations by the COAI that indicated that orders by the Trai are favouring the newcomer. “Our differences are with the orders of the regulator and not with any specific operator. Our intention is not to aggrieve any particular operator. Individual operators are free to pursue the interests of their own company vigorously under the framework of the laws of the land," COAI director general, Rajan S. Mathews said in a statement.

Incidentally, Jio has demanded that both COAI and Mathews tender public apology within 48 hours over the industry body’s allegations dated 20 February. COAI statement on Saturday further said, “However, the regulator’s role is to ensure the competing claims of companies are appropriately handled in the interest of the entire industry. This is the mandate of the TRAI Act, which specifically tasks it with ensuring the orderly growth of the industry."

COAI emphasised that as an industry body it raises concerns over various issues. “ ...we raise our concerns, as any relevant Industry association should, for the growth and development of the sector and in the interest of the nation," COAI said.

The association argued that all its “other" member operators are unanimous in their support of COAI’s position “with absolutely no exceptions".

Reliance Jio—which is also a member of COAI—had on Friday claimed it was kept in the dark about the release issued by the trade body. On Friday, billionaire Mukesh Ambanis Reliance Jio had also launched a scathing attack on COAI, saying the body has become a mouthpiece of incumbents like Bharti Airtel Ltd and is issuing “defamatory" and “malicious" statements on Trai favouring it.

COAI issued a “motivated" press statement earlier this week alleging that the regulator Trai was favouring the new operator, Jio had accused, adding that such remarks were meant to “devalue the esteem, regard and confidence enjoyed by Jio" and cause injury to its reputation. Jio had warned that it “reserves its rights to initiate criminal and civil defamation proceedings, including damages, against both COAI and incumbent dominant operators (IDOs)".

The full-blown war of words has erupted in the sector after COAI alleged that Trai’s regulations, including its rules and definition of predatory pricing, had distorted the market. COAI had also alleged that the orders appeared “to be strengthening the ambitions of one particular operator with deep pockets and monopolistic designs at the expense of other operators" although it did not name Reliance Jio which has hit the incumbent operators hard by its aggressive pricing of mobile and data services.