In a setback to incumbent mobile operators, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has proposed a penalty of about Rs 3,050 crore on three telcos — Bharti Airtel,Vodafone and Idea Cellular — for failing to provide sufficient interconnect points to Reliance Jio, leading to massive call failures.
In a letter to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) secretary, Trai has recommended a penalty of Rs 50 crore per circle for 21 service areas, except Jammu & Kashmir, for Airtel and Vodafone, where the point of interconnect (PoI) congestion exceeded the permissible limit of 0.5 per cent. For Idea Cellular, the penalty has been suggested for 19 circles, except Himachal Pradesh, J&K and North East. The penalty for Airtel and Vodafone works out to about Rs 1,050 crore each, while in case of Idea Cellular it is about Rs 950 crore.
The regulator stopped short of recommending cancellation of incumbents’ licences, saying it may lead to “significant consumer inconvenience”. The recommendation came on complaint by Jio that over 75 per cent of calls on its network were failing as incumbents were not giving sufficient PoIs that would help complete calls. Trai said the action of the three incumbent operators was “against public interest”.
Trai said denial of interconnection by these operators to Jio “appears to be with the ulterior motive to stifle competition and is anti-consumer”. Trai went to the extent of saying that the non-compliance of licence terms “warrants” recommendations for revocation of licence.