Telecom Commission Seeks Clarification on Rs. 3,050-Crore PoI Penalty

Telecom Commission has asked DoT to seek clarification from TRAI on the Rs. 3,050-crore penalty recommended by the watchdog on three service providers Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular for allegedly denying interconnectivity to newcomer Reliance Jio.

“The Telecom Commission has asked DoT to seek clarification from TRAI on 10-12 points, including whether the 90-day period was given to telecom operators for providing point of interconnection, method of calculating penalty of Rs. 50 crore per circle etc,” an official source said.

The source said that clarification has been sought on the recommendation of an experts panel set up in the Department of Telecom (DoT).

Besides this, the Telecom Commission also approved demand of Rs. 2,834 crores to be raised from those telecom operators who provided services between the period February 2012, when Supreme Court cancelled their licenses, and till the time they procured fresh permits after buying spectrum in auction.

A DoT panel, set up to study and recommend action on penalty suggested by TRAI, has sought clarification whether the regulator considered 90-day period that is given to operators for providing Points of Interconnection (PoI) to Reliance Jio from the date of request, a source said.

In August, Jio had submitted to TRAI that it will need 12,727 PoIs for mobile services and 3,068 PoIs for STD call facility before commercial launch of its services. The company launched commercial services on September 5.

TRAI’s recommendation came on complaint by Reliance Jio that over 75 percent of calls on its network were failing as incumbents were not releasing sufficient number of PoIs.

In October, TRAI had recommended imposing total penalty of Rs. 3,050 crores on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea for allegedly denying interconnectivity to newcomer Reliance Jio that led to deterioration in quality of service.

As per TRAI’s recommendation, the penalty for Airtel and Vodafone works out to about Rs. 1,050 crore each, while in case of Idea Cellular it comes to about Rs. 950 crores. The regulator stopped short of recommending cancellation of their telecom licences saying it may lead to significant consumer inconvenience.

DoT then sought legal opinion from Attorney General (AG) on whether it had powers to impose penalty in the case. The AG opined positively saying that the DoT can impose penalty on the operators.