The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has finally stepped into the war over ‘interconnectivity’ and has proposed penalties on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular for denying interconnection to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm.
Along with suggesting a ₹50-crore penalty per circle on the three incumbent players, which could total more than ₹3,000 crore, TRAI has said that Airtel and Vodafone have to pay ₹1,050 crore each and Idea Cellular ₹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.
RJio had sought TRAI’s intervention after it complained that incumbent operators were not giving an adequate number of interconnection points on July 14 and July 15, to which TRAI had communicated to all three operators on July 19 to the needful.
Reliance had contested that its quality of service to consumers was suffering due to this issue. Point of interconnection is the physical point where two networks connect. This is required for seamless communication when one operator’s user calls another operator’s user.
According to RJio, it is targeting 100 million subscribers, for which it had approached existing operators seeking adequate number of interconnect points. “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 points of interconnection. The operators earlier 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.