TRAI recommends USD157m fines over Jio interconnect issue

24 Oct 2016

Sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has written to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to recommend that Vodafone India, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular be issued fines of INR10.5 billion (USD156.75 million) apiece for violating the terms of their licences by refusing to provide sufficient interconnection points to newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL). In its notices, the TRAI argues that the three providers are required to provide adequate points of interconnection (PoIs) to all eligible service providers. As the trio failed to do so, despite pressure from the watchdog and without offering an adequate explanation for their refusal to comply with regulations, the TRAI found that their actions: ‘clearly indicates [an] attempt by the service providers … to stifle competition in the market and to wilfully violate the licence conditions.’

The regulator added that although such non-compliance of the terms and conditions of the licence warrants a revocation of the operators’ concessions, such action would ‘entail significant consumer inconvenience.’ Therefore, the TRAI recommended a fine of INR500 million per service area where PoI congestion exceeded the allowable limit of 0.5%; congestion exceeded the acceptable level in 21 of the 22 circles (all except Jammu & Kashmir).