Feb 16, 2017 11:00 AM IST | Source:

Jio row: TRAI unlikely to budge on heavy fine for telcos

The government feels that the telecom regulator's decision to impose a Rs 3,050 crore on fine on Airtel, Vodafone and Idea was based on weak grounds.

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The country’s telecom regulator is unlikely to budge on its earlier recommendation that a combined penalty of Rs 3,050 crore be levied on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular for denying sufficient points of interconnect to new entrant Reliance Jio Infocomm, according to a report in The Financial Express.

On Wednesday, CNBC-TV18 had reported that the Department of Telcommunications (DoT) was of the opinion that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had based its recommendation on “weak grounds”.

TRAI has 15 days to respond to DoT's queries. If the regulator stands its ground, then the final decision of imposing the fine will have to be taken by the DoT.

In October, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had recommended that DoT take action against the three carriers for violating licence norms. The regulator contended the carriers’ actions appeared to be aimed at stifling competition and were against public interest.

The action came after the regulator had issued showcause notices to three companies, seeking explanations for excessive call drops witnessed for calls between Jio and other networks.

But sources in DoT said that Trai did not warn the telecom companies of the high penalty while issuing the showcause notices.  DoT had also questioned whether TRAI had jumped the gun by basing its calculations on a five-day period instead of the 90-day period required under law to compute data on congestion.

Sources in TRAI claim that the regulator did due diligence on the matter and was within its right to recommend such a penalty as consumers were suffering, adding that Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had concurred with this reasoning.

Idea Cellular had moved the Delhi High Court in December, challenging Trai's decision. It claimed it had complied with and met the requirements of Jio for points of interconnections.

Vodafone India had also approached the same court and asked it to quash the recommendation, arguing that Trai’s move was against principles of natural justice.

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