As expected, a major regulatory war broke out on Wednesday with Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm taking head-on the incumbent operators by writing to the department of telecommunications secretary and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman, refuting that it is in violation of any rules.
In its eight-page letter, RJio, while reiterating that it has followed all rules and regulations for its test services, blamed Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular of preventing the launch of its full-fledged commercial services by not giving it sufficient points of interconnect (PoIs) to effectively test its services.
“We also wish to bring to your kind attention that due to insufficient interconnection, even the existing 15 lakh test users are experiencing 65% call failures owing to PoI congestion, which far exceeds the industry benchmark,” Kapoor Singh Guliani, a regulatory official at RJio, said in the letter.
As is known, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), of which RJio is also a member but is outnumbered by incumbent operators like Bharti, Vodafone and Idea, had a day earlier written to the DoT complaining that RJio’s test launch services were nothing but full-fledged services in the guise of a trial run. It had alleged that such trial services, which have notched up 1.5 million subscribers, is in gross violation of rules and is choking their PoIs thus causing bad services to their paid users. The COAI had threatened that if such practises of RJio are not reined in, its members would no longer provide it PoIs, which are essential to connect subscribers of two different networks to complete a call.
“At the outset, the contents of the said letter from COAI are malicious, unfounded, ill informed, and frivolous and are contrary to actual facts. The said letter from COAI prima facie appears to be an exercise with the ulterior motive of promoting vested interests of the incumbent dominant operators,” RJio said in the letter. “Further, COAI has deliberately indulged in an unwarranted vilification campaign, not only against RJio, but also against Trai, the regulator, through various media reports, without any basis whatsoever,” it said.
RJio clarified in the letter that it had followed all rules and regulations while conducting the test of its services. It has invested R1.34 lakh crore in the project so far, and would invest R1.5 lakh crore to cover more than 18,000 towns and over 2 lakh villages after launch of commercial services.
The company has also estimated its initial 22 million subscribers in the test phase, 50 million and 100 million subscribers during the first three and six months for the incumbents to prepare for offering enough points of interconnect, it said.
Moreover, on the issue of IUC fees, RJio, said it is complying with the relevant payments with all operators according to the agreements it has with them. “For the foregoing reasons, COAI’s allusions to the effect that RJio is indulging in anti-competition and predatory pricing activities are ex-facie false,” it said, reiterating that Reliance Jio is only conducting test services and the current users are not being charged for voice or data.
“COAI may be advised to instruct its members to continue compliance with the licence terms and conditions and should refrain from acting at the behest of dominant incumbent operators against other operators,” it added.