Mobile operators today challenged in the Supreme Court a Delhi High Court order which upheld the call drop penalty imposed on them by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
The operators have been fighting tooth and nail against a Trai order mandating them to compensate consumers Re1 for every call dropped on their networks, subject to a cap of three a day, starting 1 January 2016.
"The matter is listed for hearing sometime tomorrow (Friday)," Ashok Sud, secretary general of Auspi, the body which represents telcos on the CDMA platform, said.
Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), urged the apex court to bar Trai from implementing the regulation "through coercive measures".
It has further urged the SC to stop Trai from implementing the regulation till the conclusion of the legal proceedings in the apex court.
Both GSM lobby body COAI and Auspi have filed similar but separate petitions in the Supreme Court. Auspi represents pure CDMA players such as Sistema Shyam Teleservices and dual-technology carriers like Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices.
"We are challenging Delhi HC order as we believe Trai went beyond its jurisdiction in imposing penalties on telcos for call drops," Mathews said. COAI represents mobile phone operators such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular, Telenor and newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm.
Mathews added that the Trai regulation is impossible to implement, especially as it is not possible to accurately determine who is at fault for a dropped call. This contention had been rejected by Trai previously.
If telcos have to comply with the Trai regulation, their collective monthly payouts towards compensation for call drops could range between Rs830 crore and Rs4,500 crore based on consumer usage patterns, according to industry estimates. This is much higher than the Rs200 crore per quarter payout estimated by Trai.
Monday's Delhi HC order was in response to several pleas challenging Trai's 16 October regulation that directed mobile carriers to compensate customers for call drops. The Trai regulation had come amid growing public anger against call drops.