COAI attacks TRAI again by complaining to PMO

COAI director general Rajan Mathews on spectrum
The Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) on Thursday wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office complaining about the industry watchdog and contending that some of its moves discriminated against existing players.

The move comes after the association sent a letter on similar lines to the Department of Telecom (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 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 not only had legal sanctity, but were also aimed at ensuring high quality offering in a market where call drops are common place.

The association’s letter to PMO all along spoke about its misgivings in a generic note, while also registering its protest against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (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 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 inter-connect, it was not being provided with adequate access to terminate the calls/data — an issue, which was raised at various forums.

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 the another where it terminates.

“The present inter-connect 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 also flaws with 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.”