Smartphones stand on display at a store in Yangon, Myanmar. (Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg)

TRAI Fines Jio, Airtel, Idea, Vodafone For Not Meeting Service Quality Norms In December Quarter

Keeping its vigil on service quality in the sector, the Telecom Regulation Authority of India has imposed penalties on leading operators, including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel Ltd., Vodafone and Idea Cellular Ltd., for failing to meet various quality of service benchmarks in the December quarter, according to a source.

Around Rs 31 lakh fine has been imposed on Reliance Infocomm Ltd.’s Reliance Jio, the newest entrant in the telecom sector whose aggressive offerings have led to a bruising tariff war in the market.

The penalty on the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio is on account of failure to meet TRAI-defined service quality parameters including Point of Interconnect congestion, accessibility of call centres and customer care, and also those pertaining to termination or closure of service complied to within the stipulated seven days, according to the source.

The fine imposed relates to multiple circles or service areas in which the company operates.

An e-mail sent to Reliance Jio seeking their response on penalties remained unanswered.

Also read: Reliance Jio Makes Big Inroads In Rural India 

TRAI Chairman RS Sharma had recently confirmed that "financial disincentive" has been levied on operators for December quarter 2017, but had declined to divulge details.

TRAI has been maintaining that it does not wish to name specific operators or detail penalties slapped on them for not meeting the service quality criteria. Accordingly, it has never published this information either on its website or through a statement.

The fines imposed on Idea Cellular add up to about Rs 28-29 lakh for the December quarter, the source revealed.

The penalties on Idea are to do with benchmarks on call drops, metering and billing, both pre-paid and post-paid, accessibility of call centres and customer care and its timelines (measuring the response time to a customer for assistance), for various circles.

Bharti Airtel - currently the largest telecom operator in the country - has been fined to the tune of about Rs 23 lakh for the three months ended December, the source said.

Its penalties are on account of non-compliance on parameters entailing metering and billing (postpaid and prepaid) and accessibility of call centres, and stipulated response time on operators answering calls for specific circles.

In case of Vodafone - whose operations in India are planned to be merged with Idea Cellular - penalties add up to about Rs 9 lakh for non-compliance of select criteria. These are pertaining to time-bound refund of deposits after closure, response time for calls answered by operators, as well as call drops.

Also read: TRAI Considers All Representations: Chairman RS Sharma On Jio-Airtel Spat

Idea Cellular, Vodafone, and Bharti Airtel did not respond to e-mails seeking their comments on the development.

Other operators who have been fined include Aircel and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. BSNL and Aircel could not be reached for comments.

In an interview to PTI recently, Sharma had said that the regulator has also issued showcase notices to operators who have not met call drop norms for the March quarter.

TRAI had earlier tightened the rules and asked players to abide by its new quality of service benchmarks from Oct. 1, 2017 onwards.

Under the new rules, call drops are measured at mobile tower level instead of telecom circle level. TRAI was of the view that the average calculated at the circle level, as was done previously, hides many issues.