Telecom Commission suggests DoT send back fine proposal on Airtel, Idea & Vodafone to TRAI

TRAI Chairman RS Sharma

The Telecom Comission, a panel set up within the Department of Telecom with external representatives, has suggested that the ministry of communications should send back for ‘reconsideration’ the recommendation by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India for it to impose a fine of Rs 3,050 cr on Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone India.

The three dominant telecom operators were found by the regulator to have knowingly created congestion at their interconnection points with Reliance Jio, a new 4G operator that started its trial services late last year.

“Telecom Commission has recommended to refer back the recommendations for reconsideration by TRAI,” communications minister Manoj Sinha said today.

Sinha did not say whether the government has indeed sent back the recommendation for reconsideration or whether it plans to follow the recommendation for imposing the fine or whether it plans to ignore the recommendation. Under the law, it can do any of the three.

The TRAI had, in October, suggested that the Department of Telecom should impose a penalty of Rs 1,050 cr on Airtel and Vodafone, and Rs 950 cr on Idea for going slow on providing interconnection points, which allegedly caused up to 80% of the calls made by Jio customers to these networks to fail.

The actions of these operators were conducted “with the ulterior motive to stifle competition and is anti-consumer,” TRAI had said in its recommendation to the DoT.

According to the clauses of telecom licenses in India, it is illegal to deny any fellow operator interconnection points to allow that operator’s subscribers to make calls to other networks.

After a stern warning from the telecom ministry, the three operators increased the number of interconnection points between their networks and that of the new operator, resolving the problem.