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COAI takes incumbents' spat with Reliance Jio to PMO

12 August 2016

COAI director general Rajan S MathewsThe spat between the Cellular Operators' Association of India and Reliance Jio on Thursday reached the Prime Minister's Office, with COAI writing to the PMO complaining about industry watchdog Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and contending that some of its moves discriminated against existing players.

The complaint comes after the association sent a letter on similar lines to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that also charged that Reliance Jio had launched full commercial service in the garb of test runs, while expressing concern over some consultation papers floated by the watchdog Trai recently.

In a rebuttal to this, Reliance Industries has already written to the government and the watchdog that the tests being carried out for Jio 4G services before a full-fledged launch had legal sanctity and were also aimed at ensuring high quality offering in a market where call drops are common place

 The association's letter to the PMO all along speaks about its misgivings in a generic tone, while also registering its protest against Trai. It only named Reliance Jio, saying the new entrant had divergent views on the subject.

"These papers seen along with other recent Trai decisions, point to a pattern of discrimination against the existing mobile operators," said the letter addressed to the PMO.

"It seems some of the (watchdog's) papers have been crafted and timed to serve the interests of some new entrants in the sector, with complete disregard for the massive investments made by the existing operators," it said.

It also sought an appointment with principal secretary to the Prime Minister Nripendra Misra to whom the three-page letter is addressed, and signed by the association's director general Rajan S Mathews.

Earlier the association said that Jio's tests, with as many as 1.5 million users and growing, were choking the points of inter-connect between the new player and the incumbents, as the volume of data are around 25-30 times the Indian average and 8-10 times the global benchmarks.

But Jio countered saying, despite keeping the regulator and the Department of Telecom informed about the points of interconnect, it was not being provided with adequate access to terminate the calls/data - an issue, which was raised at various forums. (See: Rel Jio hits back at COAI, incumbent operators). The letter to the PMO also spoke about mobile termination charges - that is the fee paid by the operator from whose network a subscriber's call emanates to another where it terminates.

"The present interconnect regime was implemented by Trai in March 2015 and it was clearly stated by Trai itself in 2015 that the next review would take place in 2017-18," the letter to PMO said.

"It is, therefore, surprising to see the urgency displayed by Trai in this matter, with the consultation process initiated at such an early date and despite the fact that the matter is sub judice in various courts of law."

The letter also alleged that there were flaws in Trai's consultation paper on termination of internet telephony calls and call drop regulation.

"The industry believes such an increasing disenfranchisement of existing operators through these regulatory decisions bodes ill for investments, industry growth, and customer services and upsets the well established level-playing field paradigm," it said.

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