The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) often referred as the watchdog of the industry has taken stringent action by fining the big telcos like Reliance Jio, Idea Cellular, Vodafone India and Bharti Airtel for not adhering to the norms of quality of service. The fine levied on these telecom operators is applicable for the breaching of quality benchmarks in the December 2017 quarter. The Mukesh Ambani-led telco, Reliance Jio, whose prepaid data introduction kicked off an aggressive data tariff war might now pay a fine upwards of Rs 31 lakh. Trai has remarked that the telcos were penalised due to keeping aside service parameters like Point of Interconnect congestion, accessibility of call centres and customer care. Also, it added that timely termination of the closure of services, which is usually seven days, was also taken into consideration while fining the telcos. An email to Reliance Jio sent by PTI enquiring about the fine went unanswered. The breaching of quality parameters concerns all the circles in which the telco operates.
Trai chairman RS Sharma has also been vocal about fining the telcos in the past, in case they do not abide by the quality guidelines laid down by the regulator. He said that "financial disincentive" is the way to go this time since, in the December quarter of 2017, the telcos have breached handful of quality norms.
It was in October 2017, when Trai tightened the law regarding the quality of service (QoS) and guided the telcos to adhere to the set benchmark. The new rule dictated that measurement of calls drops must happen on the mobile tower level instead of telecom circle level. Trai had speculated that averaging of the data collected over an entire circle would cover up many faults and loopholes.
After the new rule, Trai introduced a financial disincentive of Rs 100,000-500,000 for repeat violations under the new Quality of Service (QoS) parameters. However, there is also a cap of Rs 10,00,000 on financial disincentive.
Trai has taken care not to mention any specific names of the telecom operators. It has also declined on commenting how much fines these telcos will have to pay. Following suit, even the Trai website has no information whatsoever about the currently levied disincentive on telcos.
Similar to Jio, Trai slapped Idea Cellular with a penalty summing up to Rs 28-29 lakh. Again, Trai reasoned that the disincentive was levied due to the breaching of parameters like call drops, metering and billing, both pre-paid and post-paid, accessibility of call centre or customer care and its timelines in many circles of the carrier.
Bharti Airtel is the next telco in line, and it has been hit with a penalty from Trai, summing up to Rs 23 lakh. Bharti Airtel has been levied the fine on the grounds of breaching guidelines concerning metering and billing (postpaid and prepaid) and accessibility of call centres, and stipulated response time on operators answering calls for specific circles.
The soon to be merged company, Vodafone has also been caught in the loop owing to its non-adherence time-bound refund of deposits after closure, the response time for calls answered by operators and call drops benchmark. The penalties for Vodafone add up to Rs 900,000.
When questioned over email, Idea Cellular, Vodafone and Bharti Airtel did not make any comments. Some more operators penalised for non-compliance to the parameters were the state-owned telco BSNL and the insolvent telco Aircel. However, both of these companies also couldn’t be reached over mail as the emails went unanswered on their part.