Telecom ministry to look into TRAI’s proposal to penalise 3 operators

The government will look into the proposal of the Indian telecom regulator on penalising three companies — Airtel, Idea and Vodafone — for not providing adequate points of interconnections (PoI) to industry newcomer Reliance Jio and will take a decision at the proper time.

“Let the proposal come, we will look into it. We will decide in proper time,” said telecom minister Minister Manoj Sinha on the sidelines of a press meet on Thursday.

Manoj Sinha was responding a question from media persons on the action plan and the India government’s stand regarding penalising Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has put a penalty of Rs 3,050 crore collectively on these three telecom operators.

In similarly worded decisions against the three operators, the TRAI on Wednesday said it “considered it appropriate to recommend penal action… in view of the large public interest involved.”

The regulator sent the letter to the telecom department on Wednesday.

The regulator, in response to queries by the DoT, said on Wednesday that its earlier penalties imposed on the three companies on the basis of licence service areas (LSA) were being confirmed. It had proposed penalties of Rs 1,050 crore each on Airtel and Vodafone and Rs 950 crore on Idea for 21 and 19 licence service areas.

The telecom regulator in October said the top three telecom operators in the country had violated licence norms by denying adequate PoI to Jio. Jio, despite challenges, went on adding around 72 million paid subscribers on its 4G network.

TRAI said the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) may appreciate the fact that Airtel, Vodafone and Idea were intentionally denying and delaying the provision / augmentation of PoIs to Reliance Jio Infocomm, only to restrict a new entrant, violating the terms and conditions of licence and regulations/directions of the Authority, which also caused a lot of inconvenience to wireless consumers.

The free voice and data services offered by Reliance Jio have impacted the business growth of all telecom operators in India.

A leading telecom operator, while announcing its quarterly result, said the Indian mobility industry is trending towards an annual revenue decline of 2 percent in FY 2017. October to April 2017 interval can be described as Period of Telecom Discontinuity, changing mobility business parameters. The revenue KPIs and financial parameters for all mobile operators have sharply declined in H2 FY 2017.

Incidentally, TRAI did not make any attempt to encourage Reliance Jio to start offering paid services.