Settle PoI matter bilaterally: Trai to Jio & other operators

At the meeting of regulatory heads of the four telecom service providers called on Friday, Trai secretary Sudhir Gupta asked them to discuss the issue bilaterally to ensure there was no choking of networks.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Published:September 10, 2016 2:20 am
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In the latest development involving the tussle between Reliance Jio and other telecom operators — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular — the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has stepped in and asked both the parties to settle the matter of points of interconnection (PoI) bilaterally, failing which an adjudicator would be appointed.

At the meeting of regulatory heads of the four telecom service providers called on Friday, Trai secretary Sudhir Gupta asked them to discuss the issue bilaterally to ensure there was no choking of networks.

The meeting came less than a week after Reliance Jio announced its commercial launch. It was the first attempt from the authorities to settle the debate between the two sides, wherein Reliance Jio has raised concerns over the incumbents denying enough points of interconnect, due to which calls on its network are witnessing high amount of failures. The incumbents are refusing any additional PoIs saying that “adequate number” of PoIs have been provided. The existing operators claim that traffic generated by Reliance Jio is skewed in its favour due to the free services it is providing.

Point of interconnection is the physical linking between the network of one operator to the equipment of another, thus enabling a subscriber of one operator to call a user of another operator. At the meeting, Gupta asked the incumbents to give enough PoIs to Reliance Jio to accommodate 10 million subscribers initially, against the latter’s demand to accommodate an estimated 20-22 million subscribers.

The existing operators have also claimed that because Reliance Jio is offering free services to its users, the traffic generated is unnatural, and even at a time when there were only 1.5 million test users on Reliance Jio’s network, other operators were witnessing choking due to the unexpected traffic. According to the incumbents, the total voice minutes generated by Reliance Jio have been projected to be equal to the total voice minutes generated by all other service providers.

On the other side of the debate, Reliance Jio has said due to lack of adequate PoIs, 15 lakh test users of the companies have experienced 65 per cent call failures and that incumbents are obliged to provide enough PoIs to any operator without bias according to the licencing conditions. Apart from the issue of asymmetrical traffic, incumbents also brought up the issue of whether Reliance Jio’s free-voice calls were even legal and alleged they were predatory as per the Trai’s definition. All of this was brought out by the press statement issued by Bharti Airtel which, after thanking Trai for its role in getting the parties on the table, said: “We would request the Trai to also engage on the subject of a fair IUC regime and ensure that the practice of pricing is in compliance with the 30th Amendment of the Telecom Tariff Order dated January 16, 2004, which envisages tariffs to be IUC compliant, non-predatory and non-discriminatory.”

It added, “We urge the Trai to find a way to curb the massive asymmetric traffic to ensure that receiving networks are not abused by tsunami of free traffic. In this regard, IUC is an effective tool in the hands of Trai, which we hope they will use judiciously.”

Although Reliance Jio did not issue a statement, its representative, Mahendra Nahata, who attended the meeting, told reporters the company had asked for “the right number of connect, right quantum of interconnection”. Nahata said the company had put forth its point of view to Trai.

“It is for Trai to look into the matter. There is no time frame indicated by the Trai,” he said.