Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm, two of India's major telecom providers, are embroiled in a disagreement over the latter's JioFiber home broadband service. Jio's recent move to offer live TV channels with its broadband service has prompted Airtel to request that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) block Jio's Backup plans, accusing the telco of predatory pricing that harms consumer interests and disrupts competition.
Tata Play, India's largest direct-to-home (DTH) operator, has criticised both Airtel and Jio for including live TV channels and over-the-top (OTT) apps in their respective broadband and Airtel Black offers. The DTH operator called these actions clear examples of predatory pricing.
Jio, in a letter to the TRAI, accused Airtel of filing frivolous complaints and called on the regulator to warn Airtel of doing the same in the future. Jio offers home broadband services that allow access to content from OTT (over-the-top) apps through a Set-Top Box (STB).
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Airtel claimed that Jio's offer of 400-550 live TV channels as part of a broadband package significantly below market cost is an attempt to reduce competition, which goes against the TTO-1999 and requires TRAI's immediate attention.
Jio has dismissed these allegations, describing Airtel's complaint as a "deliberate, malicious attempt to defame Reliance Jio's consumer-friendly tariffs in order to protect its narrow interests."
Tata Play joins the fray
According to an ET report, Tata Play's criticism of both Airtel and Jio has added to the tension. Tata Play considers the inclusion of live TV channels and OTT apps in broadband packages as predatory pricing, potentially pushing smaller operators out of the market.
It remains to be seen whether the TRAI will take any action in response to Airtel's complaint. Nonetheless, the debate highlights the competitive nature of India's telecoms sector, with operators vying for market share by offering bundled services at attractive prices.
Tata Play joins the fight against Jio's latest offering but also has accused Airtel of doing the same. In a letter dated late March, Tata Play's Managing Director, Harit Nagpal, urged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to intervene and stop the "predatory, capital-destructive practices" of Jio and Airtel. Nagpal also suggested that DTH players should have the freedom to negotiate prices with broadcasters and price channels based on market forces.
Tata Play cited the recent JioFiber and Airtel Black plans, which bundle live TV channels and OTT apps. Nagpal argued that these offerings are damaging and detrimental to the DTH business, which is already saddled with multiple regulatory restrictions and unable to negotiate with broadcasters and offers similar discounts to subscribers. ET has seen copies of the letters sent by Jio, Airtel and Tata Play to the regulator.