Allegedly, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, two of the biggest telecom operators in the industry denied points of interconnection (PoI) to the Mukesh Ambani led Reliance Jio Infocomm back in 2016 during the launch of its service. As such, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has been talking about levying a hefty penalty on both of these telecom operators. However, as per a new report from ET, both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are readying themselves to challenge any penalty order from the DoT for allegedly denying Reliance Jio Infocomm points of interconnection.
Bharti and VIL to Approach Court or TDSAT to Challenge Penalties
Right now, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are awaiting any penalty order which might come their way through DoT. Then to challenge this penalty order, both the telcos will either head to court or the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), said the sources aware of the matter. Even then, the passing of the penalty order from DoT won't be swift since the sector regulator, Trai, is looking at the penalties to judge whether the amount is appropriate or not. A person aware of the ongoings in one of the telcos said, "The telcos will definitely challenge penalties, but we are awaiting DoT's notice. It could be a month or two for penalty charges to finally come to us."
Another person said that there were two points available which formed the basis of challenge against the penalties. Firstly, he said that the points of interconnection are required to be provided within 90 days of being asked for, but they were provided in less than 45 days. Secondly, the quality of service needs to be checked by the regulator by observing the network for 30 days, whereas Trai has fined the telcos by monitoring the network only for a day.
Total Fines Levied on Telcos Worth Rs 3,050 Crore
Earlier, Trai had suggested that each telco, Vodafone India and Bharti Airtel be levied with penalties of Rs 1,050 crores, and the penalty for Idea Cellular was Rs 950 crores. Notably, the department had asked for an explanation on the penalties which were quoted by the regulator. Back in 2017, Trai had said that the rules point towards cancellation of licences for the telcos in case of non-compliance with the norms. However, to not inconvenience the subscribers, the regulator had opted to levy fines.
It is also worth noting that on Tuesday, the Digital Communications Commissions (DCC) had asked the sector regulator, Trai to review the total amount of fines looking at the poor financial health of the industry. While posed with questions, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea did not return any answers.