Reliance Jio impact: Idea Cellular joins telecom war against free data plan extension offer

By: | Updated: January 19, 2017 7:03 AM

Even as another incumbent operator, Idea Cellular, on Wednesday joined Bharti Airtel by moving the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal petitioning against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India being a mute spectator to Reliance Jio extending its free offer beyond December 2016

jio-pti-lFor instance, Jio has said that its inaugural offer provided 4 GB of free data per day but the one effective from January 1 provides for only 1 GB a day. (PTI)

Even as another incumbent operator, Idea Cellular, on Wednesday joined Bharti Airtel by moving the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal petitioning against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India being a mute spectator to Reliance Jio extending its free offer beyond December 2016, the regulatory body rushed to the attorney general seeking his views on the legality of the extension of the offer.

TDSAT, while admitting Idea’s petition, has clubbed the hearing with that of Bharti Airtel’s on February 1. By that day Trai is also expected to file its reply before the tribunal as to what action it has taken on Jio’s extension of the free data offer to its customers. Trai has sent a notice to Jio seeking the company’s response as to why the extension should not be considered illegal, to which the latter has replied that its first free offer and the second one are different and, therefore, it cannot be said that it is the extension of the inaugural offer beyond the stipulated 90-day period.

For instance, Jio has said that its inaugural offer provided 4 GB of free data per day but the one effective from January 1 provides for only 1 GB a day. The AG’s view will be significant as it is quite possible that the response will become Trai’s reply to the tribunal on the matter. This means that Trai will go by what the AG has to say on the matter and will file the same as its reply before the tribunal.

The allegation of Bharti against Trai, now echoed by Idea, is that the regulator has been a mute spectator to the gross violations committed by Jio of all the regulatory orders put in place with regard to tariffs since 1999 till February 2016. The basic charge is that as per regulatory orders in force, there can be no such thing as free voice call as the interconnect usage charge (IUC) acts as a floor for retail tariff.

Further, the promotional plan offered by any operator can only be for a period of 90 days, which Jio has violated and the Trai has failed to pass any directions against it.

The two have urged the TDSAT to quash Trai’s October 20 order which states that tariffs of Jio are IUC compliant, non-predatory and non-discriminatory, and the promotional offer be stopped immediately as it is leading to imbalanced traffic and choking the networks of the incumbent operators. It is also aimed at killing competition in the sector and it is the job of the regulator to foster competition rather than killing it, they maintain.

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