Cellular operators’ association COAI has expressed disappointment over the Rs 3,050 crore penalty recommended by Trai on incumbent operators Airtel, Vodafone and Idea for allegedly denying interconnectivity to newcomer Reliance Jio. But the association – which at one point, had led cellular operators from the front in their battle with the new entrant over call connectivity – said it will not get involved as interconnect issue was a matter involving individual operators and bilateral agreements.
“We are disappointed when large penalties are recommended or imposed on the industry…it is not a trivial amount…it seems that Trai has imposed maximum penalty of Rs 50 crore (per circle),” COAI Director General Rajan Mathews told PTI. However, Department of Telecom (DOT) will decide whether the same is appropriate or not, he said.
“The matter is between individual operators and Trai. We were not privy to the showcase notice by Trai or subsequent responses. We were not involved with details of the matter…it is bilateral…we will wait to see DOT’s response on the matter…DOT will have to review and decide,” he added.
Asked if the association will chalk out a future course of action to represent the stance of the incumbent telcos on the issue of interconnect and penalty, Mathews emphasised that operators will decide on how they want to respond. In a setback to incumbent telecom operators, the telecom regulator on Friday suggested a penalty of about Rs 1,050 crore each for Airtel and Vodafone, and Rs 950 crore in case of Idea Cellular.
Trai in its recommendation to DOT, said it has found the trio to be non-compliant with licence conditions and service quality norms given the high rate of call failures and congestion at interconnect points for RJio. It also noted that denial of interconnection by these operators to RJio “appears to be with the ulterior motive to stifle competition and is anti-consumer”.
The regulator stopped short of recommending cancellation of their licences saying it may lead to “significant consumer inconvenience”. The recommendation came on a complaint by Reliance Jio that over 75 per cent of the calls on its network are failing as incumbents were not giving sufficient points of interconnect that would help complete calls.