Telecom Regulator Defends Penalty On Airtel, Vodafone, Idea In Reliance Jio Case 

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), today, stoutly defended its recommendation of Rs 3,050 crore penalty on Bharti Airtel Ltd., Vodafone India Ltd. and Idea Cellular Ltd. for their alleged failure to provide adequate points of interconnect (PoIs) to newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. for completing phone calls.

In a point-by-point response to queries raised by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), TRAI said the three incumbent operators "intentionally denied and delayed" provision of points of interconnect to Reliance Jio "only to restrict a new entrant...causing a lot of inconvenience to consumers."

TRAI said after its intervention Airtel, Vodafone and Idea provided PoIs at much shorter notices (in some 7 instances within 2-3 days) implying that they were capable of providing such PoIs without any delay.

It said telecom operators are bound by licence conditions that make it obligatory on it "maintaining quality of service" and "a breach thereof is liable to be treated as breach of terms and conditions of the licence".

Stating that it is mandated by law to ensure effective interconnection and quality of service to the consumers, TRAI said non-compliance of terms and conditions of the licence warrants recommendations for the revocation of the licence.

"However, the Authority was mindful of the fact that revocation of the licence will entail significant consumer inconvenience and therefore in view of the larger public interest involved, the Authority recommended a penal action of Rs 50 crore per circle," it said.

DoT had in February asked TRAI to clarify on almost a dozen points including the basis of which the penalty amount was calculated and the provision in the law that enabled it to do so.