In a fresh offensive against industry body COAI, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio has slammed the association for airing views on call termination rates when two of its five members differed on the issue. Jio said COAI had “no business to intervene” by writing to sector regulator Trai as two of the members, including Jio, had differed from the views of the “incumbent dominant operators” on the matter. COAI, on its part, defended itself saying it strives to ensure facts are placed on record to inform the discourse and asserted that it captures “any minority or dissenting views”, after following due process. Jio levelling fresh allegations against the apex cellular body comes in the wake of the latter writing to Trai last week on the interconnect usage charge (IUC) issue.
Jio has now accused COAI of misleading the regulator by “twisting and giving different colours to the facts”, and claimed that this was being done allegedly “at the behest of incumbent operators who are enjoying windfall gains due to continuation of high termination charges”. “COAI ought not to have espoused its views in any manner on the determination of interconnection usage charges since two of its five members, namely Aircel and Reliance Jio, have expressly differed from the views of the incumbent dominant operators (IDOs),” Jio said in a strongly-worded letter to the telecom regulator.
Jio — the most aggressive 4G operator — further alleged that “COAI had no business to intervene” when, in fact, the incumbent operators had already stated their views “individually and separately”. “COAI’s letter deliberately misleads the authority to believe that their view is that of the telecom industry as a whole, while it is definitely not so, and it differs even among its own members,” Jio said in a letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).
When contacted, Rajan Mathews, Director General of COAI, told PTI: “COAI captures any minority or dissenting views, whenever the case may be, after following due process. We continue to welcome all comments from our members to us and hope to continue to create value for all our members.” He said COAI’s responsibilities included ensuring facts are placed on record to inform the discourse.
“It is the business of the day for COAI to share such germane facts, which are also a matter of public record,” Mathews added. Meanwhile, Jio has claimed that COAI was taking a series of action “to lobby for the IDOs to delay the consultation process for review of IUC charges and befuddle Trai in reaching a logical conclusion, so these operators continue to enjoy windfall subsidy through IUC at the cost of consumers and other and new operators”.
Trai is reviewing call connect charges and the industry is sharply divided over whether the rates should be increased or lowered. Telecom firms levy IUC on incoming calls from the network of the other operator and these termination charges are currently 14 paise per minute. Any increase in termination charge would help incumbent operators as they tend to receive more incoming calls, especially from networks where voice calls are free.
The incumbents have argued that terminating incoming calls on their networks costs 30-35 paise per minute. Jio, on the other hand, has favoured levying no charge on incoming calls. Last week, COAI alleged that operators citing Trai’s 2011 affidavit in the Supreme Court to push for scrapping the termination charges are attempting to “distort facts”, creating false impression among the public.
Jio, in its letter to Trai chairman on July 26, has dubbed COAI’s letter as “malicious, ill-founded and unwarranted” and demanded that the association’s conduct be questioned in the wake of the alleged “false and misleading statements”. “A plain reading of said letter reveals COAI’s deliberate and wilful intent to subvert the IUC consultation process at the behest of the incumbent dominant operators — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea,” Jio has alleged.
It also claimed that COAI’s views on IUC are completely against the interest of consumers, anti-competitive and hinder adoption of new technology. Jio has further claimed that repeated insistence of the association on traffic symmetry being a pre-condition to implementation of Bill and Keep (BAK) regime was completely “frivolous and misplaced”. Under the BAK regime, the operators only keep record of incoming calls on their network, but do not raise any demand from other operators.