Airtel flouts licence norms to sell Apple Watch 3, alleges Reliance Jio

Reliance Jio alleges that Airtel is offering eSim service on Apple Watch Series 3 in violation of licence norms, and demands immediate closure of the service

Navadha Pandey
Updated14 May 2018
Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel are selling Apple Watch Series 3 from 11 May through their sales channels. Photo: Reuters
Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel are selling Apple Watch Series 3 from 11 May through their sales channels. Photo: Reuters

New Delhi: In fresh salvo fired in the hyper competitive telecom sector, Reliance Jio has complained to the department of telecommunications (DoT) alleging that Airtel is violating the government’s licence norms and posing a threat to national security by not setting up within India certain network infrastructure that it uses to sell Apple Watch Series 3.

“Airtel has not set up eSIM provisioning node within India and the node being used to provide Apple Watch Series 3 service is currently located out of India in gross violation of the licence terms,” Jio wrote in a letter to the DoT on 11 May.

The user’s iPhone and Apple Watch share the same number and the user can choose either device to make or receive calls via the electronic SIM. At the time of pairing of the two devices, over-the-air provisioning of eSIM is carried out by a dedicated network node that is used for eSIM profile allocation which contains network and user information.

Government norms mandate an operator to deploy equipment anywhere in India subject to the interconnection points located and operated in the respective service areas for inter-operator, inter-service area, national long-distance and international calls. The licence terms also require that operators shall not transfer any user information or their accounting information to any person or place outside India.

“Airtel has deliberately chosen to install a critical network element outside India for a service being offered under the Access Services Licence indicates its blatant disregard for the sanctity of the licence terms and conditions including important security conditions,” Jio said. Mint has seen a copy of the letter.

Bharti Airtel had on 24 April announced a partnership with Apple for the India launch of the Apple Watch Series 3. This comes enabled with built-in cellular through an electronic SIM which will be used with customer’s existing Airtel number. Interestingly, on 11 May Reliance Jio also announced a similar partnership with Apple.

Jio has urged DoT to impose a penalty on Airtel for this alleged violation of norms, apart from directing Airtel to immediately stop this service and commence it again only after complying with requirements of national security and addressing the alleged violations of licence norms.

“This is yet another frivolous complaint by a desperate operator, whose sole aim appears to have a monopoly over everything that they do,” a Bharti Airtel spokesperson said when contacted.

“The DoT was duly notified prior to the launch of Apple watch including product features, network architecture and lawful interception and we have also requested them to carry out a demonstration of the same. All information relating to customers, network nodes etc. is hosted in a fully secure manner by Airtel India along with provision for lawful interception. We will be happy to share more details with the DoT as and when required,” the Bharti Airtel spokesperson said.

Mint could not independently verify the veracity of claims made by Jio.

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