In a recent development, the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to not encash any bank guarantees against the telecom operators Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel till the next hearing. These telcos are alleged to have denied points of interconnection to Reliance Jio in 2016, which impacted the quality of Jio’s services. Both Vi and Airtel have moved the TDSAT against the telecom department’s demand seeking penalties for the same.
The move made by Vi and Airtel comes on the heels of DoT slapping them with cumulative penalties that are worth Rs 3,050 crore. This penalty was said to be paid within three weeks as they flouted licence conditions.
The Airtel, Vi Accusation
As per ET Telecom, today, the TDSAT was hearing the pleas of both the telecom operators against the penalty that was imposed by DoT for denying the adequate points of interconnection to Jio in 2016. The next hearing of the case will be heard on October 26. Initially, the DoT had ordered them to pay the penalty within October 21.
Both Airtel and Vi have protested against the hefty penalty they were imposed alleging that a breach would have been for a maximum of a couple of days but not over a month, as DoT and TRAI had recommended. However, DoT said that it takes instructions from relevant departments regarding the same.
Back in 2016, TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) imposed them to pay fines of Rs 1,050 crore each as Airtel and Vodafone India violated licence conditions resulting in poor quality of service and not granting sufficient points of interconnection in 21 circles each. On the other hand, Idea Cellular was fined Rs 950 crore for not correcting rules in 19 circles.
For those who are unaware, points of interconnection are needed for voice calls to go through between networks. As per the accusation, Jio’s network could not place calls to Airtel, Vodafone and Idea numbers. While the hearing was going on, Vodafone and Idea merged in 2018 and DoT accepted the recommendations of the regulator in 2019 but had not served the notices to date.