As the dispute between Reliance Jio and top telecom operators for interconnection points reaches a temporary resolution, a new issue has erupted between the COAI and the Trai. The relationship with the GSM body and the regulator hit a rough patch on Friday following COAI’s claims that its director general Rajan Mathews was kept out of the Trai meeting with top telecom operators and Reliance Jio.
COAI’s Mathews, in a statement to media, said that the association was kept out of the meeting on insistence of Reliance Jio, and the Trai acquiesced to their demand in an unprecedented manner.
The regulator has now asked COAI to get its Director-General Rajan Mathews to apologies and retract his comments that the Trai had asked him to leave the meeting on insistence of Jio. “In order to set the record straight, the Director General, COAI may be directed to to retract his false statement made in the media and issue apologies for the same,” Trai wrote in a letter to COAI Chairman Gopal Vittal.
Trai said that neither COAI nor any other industry association was invited for the meeting since the issue involved bilateral arrangements between mobile phone operators. “This was also clarified to Rajan Mathews, director general, COAI before the meeting,” Trai said in the letter.
Reliance Jio Member of Board of Directors Mahendra Nahata, who represented the company at the meeting, also denied any Jio role in Trai keeping COAI out of the discussions.
The latest brawl comes in the backdrop of COAI’s criticism of the sector watchdog, accusing it of being biased against incumbent operators.
COAI had earlier faced criticism from Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani on its functioning. Ambani had told a newspaper that COAI’s structure was flawed as the voting rights of the members depended on the revenue of the operators.
Ambani had said, “We have zero revenue, so we are crowded out.”
COAI rejected Ambani’s charges and said that his comments were “absolutely incorrect and misleading”. It said the industry body’s views were fully endorsed by all or majority of its member operators.
COAI members include the country’s top three carriers — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular — smaller operators such as Aircel, Telenor and Videocon Telecom, as well as Reliance Jio.