Published: Sun, May 28, 2017
Science | By Cecil Little

Government to Look Into TRAI's Proposal to Penalise Airtel, Idea, Vodafone: Sinha

Government to Look Into TRAI's Proposal to Penalise Airtel, Idea, Vodafone: Sinha

It said telecom operators are bound by licence conditions that make it obligatory on it "maintaining Quality of Service" and "a breach thereof is liable to be treated as breach of terms and conditions of the licence". While the penalty imposed on Airtel and Vodafone amounts to ₹1,050 crore each, the penalty amount to Idea is ₹950 crore.

".not only the steps taken by Airtel were insufficient to bring down the POI congestion to the desired level of 0.5% in most of the LSAs but also that Airtel appeared to have ulterior motive to stifle competition", TRAI said in the letter.

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".

As per a report released by the UBS Securities Asia based on the monthly subscriber data released by TRAI for March, Reliance Jio's attractively priced 4G mobile service scheme Prime is not bringing in almost enough users to the telecom provider as it would have hoped. The regulator also pulled up DoT for a delay in responding to Trai's June 8 letter, in which it had sought to know whether the more than five lakh SIMs issued by Jio were in compliance with its licensing terms and conditions.

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It said there was no provision in the licence or TRAI Regulation "to deny/delay provisioning of PoIs during the test phase". The regulator said the same thing for Vodafone and Idea.

On another point, Trai said, "It is surprising that DoT, as the licensor, is not aware of the date of launch of commercial service by Reliance Jio". Since revocation of the license will entail significant consumer inconvenience therefore, it has recommended a penal action of Rs 50 crore per LSA where POI congestion exceeded the allowable limit of 0.5%. ET had first reported Trai's stand to back its views on the matter to DoT, in its May 13 edition.

The regulator, in its response to the DoT, has mentioned point-by-point reasons for imposing the penalties.

Trai's reply on penalties will go back to the TC, an inter-ministerial panel which comprises the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion secretary, economic affairs secretary, Niti Aayog chief executive officer and IT secretary as members, which will take the final call.

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The rejection came after Airtel urged the telecom department to reject TRAI's recommendation.

"We disagree with Trai's observations and believe that the penalty has been recommended on the basis of an incorrect assessment of the situation on ground", it said in a statement.

DoT will now consider the response before taking a decision. "The fact is that we have provided PoIs to Jio at an unprecedented pace despite the provision of 90 days in the license", it added.

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