Govt backs penalty on Airtel and Vodafone Idea in Reliance Jio issue
17 June 2019
The Digital Communications Commission (DCC), the highest decision-making body of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), is reportedly ready to back the telecom regulator's stand on allegations of cartelisation made by Reliance Jio Infocomm against the three leading private sector telecom service providers Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular as far back as October 2016.
“DCC has agreed to impose penalty on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea for not providing points of interconnection to Reliance Jio. However, the Commission has decided to take Trai’s view on revising quantum of penalty in the backdrop of stress in the sector,” PTI quoted an official source as saying.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had recommended imposing total penalty of Rs3,050 crore on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular (the latter two have since merged to form Voda Idea) for allegedly denying inter-connectivity to newcomer Jio.
Trai's recommendation came on a complaint by RJio that over 75 per cent of calls on its network were failing as incumbents were not releasing sufficient number of PoIs.
The regulator stopped short of recommending cancellation of their telecom licences saying it may lead to significant consumer inconvenience.
The penalty on Airtel and Vodafone worked out to be about Rs1,050 crore each. In case of Idea it was about Rs950 crore. Since Vodafone and Idea have now merged their businesses, the new entity Vodafone Idea will have to bear the burden of both companies.
“A secretary from a nodal ministry said the penalty should be apportioned and applied on RJio as well. His point was whether responsibility of providing quality of service by a primary licence holder be shifted on others? However, DCC members did not agree to the view of imposing penalty on Jio,” the source said.
The telecom secretary is the ex-officio chairperson of DCC and the panel’s full-time members include member (finance), member (production), member (services) and member (technology). Niti Aayog CEO, Department of Economic Affairs secretary, Ministry of Electronics and IT secretary and DIPP secretary are the part-time members of the body.