Attacks and counter-attacks are being made, but the customer is still not aware who is at fault
No one can deny that as far as the issue of enhancement of interconnect capacity is concerned, it is fairly and squarely covered in the scope on interconnection agreement. Both the parties—RJio and COAI—are admitting that there is an interconnect agreement signed between them. The agreement would cover the provisions for payment of termination charge, procedure for enhancement of interconnection capacity, minimum period for which commitment should be provided by the seeker to hold the enhanced capacity, etc.
The agreement would have a clear provision for interconnect testing which prescribes for and signing of test certificate between the parties to confirm that the testing is successful. It is only after this that the traffic flow and payment of IUC starts between the parties.
I assume this is in place and that is why RJio is paying 0.14 paise termination charge. I don’t remember, with my previous experience in this sector, of any provision in the standard interconnect agreements linking up this IUC payment with trial/commercial launch.
If this is so, then it is difficult to understand the objection from COAI? Each call terminating in the network of COAI members is earning 0.14 paise as termination charge—a charge which is fixed by the current regulation. One can understand the stand to refuse enhancement of capacity if RJio is terminating traffic in the guise of test traffic as free from any termination charge or is not honouring the terms of interconnect agreement in any manner. At least the COAI ground of objection which appeared in the papers fails to indicate any such issue.
In fact, if the traffic pumped into the network of COAI members is more, then they earn more than what they pay to RJio. However, in case COAI is challenging the 0.14 paise termination charge as such not being adequate, which they are entitled to challenge, then they must take that up with Trai in an exercise on review of IUC payment which is currently under way.
On the other hand, if RJio is asking for any relaxation in any of the conditions of interconnect agreement such as waiver of termination charge or to cut short the period for enhancement of capacity against what is agreed mutually, in that case COAI’s objection is justified as any relaxation in the condition of agreement cannot be claimed as a matter of right by RJio.
The customer is confused today whether they should look at RJio as a possible operator or not? Because if RJio is not allowed to enhance their interconnect capacity, it will, in turn, affect the quality of service. In such a scenario, the customer would rather like to stay away from subscribing to RJio service. RJio should also restrain from selling the free SIM cards if they cannot provide a good quality service to customers. For a customer, terms like trial or commercial are irrelevant.
It is incumbent upon the regulator to clear the smoke on this issue and issue necessary legally-enforceable directions to the party whichever is violating the terms of the interconnect agreement. The operators are required to file a copy of the interconnect agreement with the regulator as per interconnection regulations relating to “register of interconnect agreements” and therefore the regulator has an access to the agreement which will help in clearly identifying the defaulter.
Perhaps both the parties are trying to resort to arm-twisting to settle the larger issue of review of IUC in the name of capacity enhancement. The regulator must discharge its duties and exercise its authority under the Act to come out with a clear response and direct the defaulter as far as issue relating to capacity enhancement is concerned by interpreting the interconnect agreement executed between the parties.
As far as the issues relating to review of IUC is concerned, both parties should be clearly advised to file their views on that issue in the ongoing consultation and respect the regulatory process.
This will not only allow the customer to take a calculated call on choosing its service provider, but will also bring an end to the current war of words and mud-slinging.
The author is founder & CEO, Tathya Consulting