The Digital Communications Commissions, the inter-ministerial panel of the Telecom Ministry which is also its highest decision-making authority, has deferred a decision on imposing a penalty on Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular for not providing adequate inter-connection to Reliance Jio during its network trial time in 2016.
No decision could be taken on the issue of penalty as one of the Secretaries had to leave early, so the issue has been deferred, official sources said.
In February this year, when the issue had come up for discussion at the DCC, it was deferred due to lack of consensus in the report of an internal, seven-member DoT panel.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in October 2016 recommended imposing a total penalty of Rs. 3,050 crore on Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea for allegedly denying interconnectivity to Jio.
The issue has been hanging fire since October 2016 when the Trai suggested imposition of penalties on India’s older operators for allegedly violating licence conditions by not providing enough points of interconnection to Reliance Jio, which led to severe call failures on the new entrant’s network, hurting quality of services.
It had taken the shape of a cartelisation by the old operators to block or hurt the entry of a new entrant and influence the free market and competition, TRAI had said.
The regulator had recommended fines of Rs. 1,050 crore each on Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India for breaches in 21 licensed service areas (LSAs) while Idea Cellular was penalised Rs. 950 crore for alleged violations in 19 LSAs. Vodafone and Idea have since merged their operations.