RJio PoIs issue: Trai proposes fines on existing operators
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has proposed to impose penalties on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, and Idea Cellular for deliberately denying adequate numbers of points of interconnection (PoIs) to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJio).
It is said the three incumbent operators may take a legal recourse to challenge TRAI’s suggestions. According to sources from one of the operators, it was ‘surprising that RJio’s network was having congestion in all the circles’.
The Authority has suggested levying Rs 50-crore penalty per circle on the three incumbent players, which could total more than Rs3,000 crore. According to TRAI, Airtel and Vodafone have to pay Rs1,050 crore each and Idea Cellular Rs 950 crore. The penalty has been imposed for violating quality of service norms.
“Interconnection is extremely important from a consumer perspective. Telecom users cannot communicate with each other or connect with services they demand unless necessary interconnection arrangements are in place,” TRAI said in the letter to each of the three incumbent operators
Earlier in July, RJio had written to the Authority seeking action against incumbent operators for not providing points of interconnection points. Trai had forward RJio’s communication to the incumbent operators for necessary action.
According to RJio, it is targeting 100 million subscribers, for which it had approached existing operators seeking adequate numbers of PoIs. “Instead of augmenting the PoIs, other operators are blocking the PoI augmentation on various unreasonable grounds,” RJio said in a letter to DoT.
However, incumbent operators initially refused to give these PoIs. The operators said they could not release more interconnections because RJio was allegedly bypassing regulations by offering full-fledged services under the guise of test connections. After RJio launched its commercial services, the incumbent operators said the free voice calls being offered by the new operator were leading to congestion on the network.
The Cellular Operators Association of India, representing incumbent operators Airtel, Vodafone and Idea, said that giving interconnection to RJio would be economically unviable and would lead to huge erosion of revenue for the operators.
However, after a meeting between the warring sides, hosted by TRAI, the incumbent operators started releasing points of interconnections. Though this has eased up the congestion on RJio’s network, the operator said that a majority of calls on its networks were still dropping.