The Digital Communications Commission (DCC) which is the top wing of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has granted a green flag to Trai’s recommendations of levying a Rs 3,050 crore penalty on Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea for denying sufficient Points of Interconnection (PoIs) to Reliance Jio. This report comes from ET Telecom and it highlights that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), had recommended the DCC that the two private telecom operators should be slapped with a Rs 3,050 crore combined penalty for denying Points of Interconnection (PoIs) to the Mukesh Ambani led telecom operator back in 2016 during its rollout.
DCC Approval Awaiting Final Clearance from Telecom Minister
It is worth noting that the DCC (Digital Communications Commission) is the highest decision making body in the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and it has approved the recommendation asserted by Trai. The approval of the DCC will need a final clearance from the telecom minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, which will finally bring some clarity into the matter which has been brewing in the industry for the past three years. To recall, Reliance Jio had notified about the issue of insufficient points of interconnection before its launch in September 2016. The Mukesh Ambani led telecom operator had accused the existing operators in the space, including Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Bharti Airtel of denying PoIs to the new telco. The points of interconnection allow the telecom operators to switch the calls from one network to another.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had taken into consideration Reliance Jio’s complaints and had recommended a penalty of Rs 1,050 crore each to Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Rs 950 crore on Idea Cellular, for violating rules of service quality. In August 2018, Vodafone Idea had moved to Delhi High Court opposing the penalties. Now, the two telecom operators, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, are expected to challenge any penalties from Trai legally.
DCC Asked Trai to Reconsider Penalties on Telcos
Only a few days back, the Telecom regulator had clarified that it has no scope of making changes to the penalties which it recommended to the DCC for the interconnection issues. Citing the clauses in the relevant act, the regulator had recently informed the Department of Telecom (DoT) that it is “constrained from offering any further comments” on the matter and the Centre now has to take a final call on the issue. To recall, the recommendations from Trai were made back in October 2018. It was before the approval from DCC that the commission had requested Trai to retake a look at the Rs 3,050 crore penalty citing the “present financial health of the sector”.