Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani slammed the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) for its undemocratic functioning, and said that the voting rights of the members depend on the revenue of the operators.
“I didn’t realise until just a few months ago that while it’s an association, the voting rights of the members depend on the revenue of the operators. We have zero revenue, so we are crowded out. Then what happens is that the official or the CEO of the association becomes an employee of the top two or three operators, in essence,” Ambani said in an interview to Economic Times.
Ambani said the COAI’s view is actually the view of one or two operators and not the view of the entire industry. “If the top two operators control more than 51 per cent, it’s an inherent flaw in its structure,” he said.
He said that Jio has aspirations of getting substantial revenue, and once it gets substantial revenue,it will not misuse the revenue power.
The industry body, which represents telecom operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Aircel, discarded Ambani’s comments on the functioning of COAI by terming them “absolutely incorrect and misleading.”
“COAI is a fully democratic association and takes into account the views of all its member operators. On all policy matters, the views of COAI are fully endorsed by all or majority of its member operators,” Rajan S Mathews, Director General of COAI, said in a statement.
“It is also completely incorrect to say that the official or the CEO of the Association becomes an employee of the top two or three operators, in essence,” he added.
On the Inter-connect User Charge (IUC), Mathews said that views expressed by the association on the matter are of “all the members” except Reliance Jio, which is the only member opposing it.
India’s top telecom operators have locked horns with Reliance Jio over the allotment of interconnection points to the latter. They recently told the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that “they are in no way obliged or in any position to entertain Reliance Jio Infocomm’s requests for interconnection points.”
On the issue of interconnection points, Ambani said, “When each of us bid for spectrum and sign a licence, we have obligations to our fellow operators, to the government of India and, above all, to our customers. You are mandated to provide interconnect so that you do not abuse your market position.”
Ambani added that a telco is supposed to augment interconnect when the current capacity utilisation reaches 70 per cent. “You cannot use excuses that someone is doing promotions, capacity requirement has gone up, etc. Those are not acceptable. They are anti-customer practices. Consumers should not suffer. I am very happy to take the ragging onto myself, but this is not ragging me. This is ragging the customer.” He further added.