Vodafone, Airtel Fined Rs 1,050 Cr for for Denying Access to Jio

Digital Communications Commission, the apex decision-making body of the telecom department, on Monday, 17 June approved imposing a penalty on Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea for not providing points of interconnection to Reliance Jio.

However, before imposing the penalty, the Commission has decided to seek Trai's views on revising Rs 3,050 crore penalty recommended by the sector regulator amid financial stress in the sector.

While Digital Communications Commission (DCC) approved imposing penalty on the companies, it disagreed with a proposal of one of the secretaries to fine Reliance Jio as it "too failed to deliver quality service to customers".

"“DCC has agreed to impose penalty on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea for not providing points of interconnection to Reliance Jio. However, the Commission has decided to take Trai’s view on revising quantum of penalty in the backdrop of stress in the sector.”" - DCC Official to PTI

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in October 2016 recommended imposing total penalty of Rs 3,050 crore on Airtel, Vodafone Idea for allegedly denying interconnectivity to newcomer RJio.

The penalty on Airtel and Vodafone works out to be about Rs 1,050 crore each. In case of Idea it comes to about Rs 950 crore.

Since Vodafone and Idea have now merged their businesses, the new entity Vodafone Idea will have to bear the burden of both companies.

The regulator stopped short of recommending cancellation of their telecom licences saying it may lead to significant consumer inconvenience.

Trai's recommendation came on a complaint by RJio that over 75 percent of calls on its network were failing as incumbents were not releasing sufficient number of PoIs.

"A secretary from a nodal ministry said the penalty should be apportioned and applied on RJio as well. His point was whether responsibility of providing quality of service by a primary licence holder be shifted on others? However, DCC members did not agree to the view of imposing penalty on Jio," the source said.

The telecom secretary is the ex-officio chairperson of DCC and the panel’s full-time members include member (finance), member (production), member (services) and member (technology).

Niti Aayog CEO, Department of Economic Affairs secretary, Ministry of Electronics and IT secretary and DIPP secretary are the part-time members of the body.

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