In connection with interconnection issue, Airtel & Voda Idea fined by DCC

New Delhi: Telecom giants Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have been slapped a cumulative penalty of Rs 3,050 crore by the Digital Communications Commission (DCC) for not providing points of interconnection to Reliance Jio.

The telcos have stated that they are exploring all options, including legal recourse, to protect their interest against the Telecom Department’s apex decision-making body’s order.

“DCC has accepted Trai recommendation on penalty on Airtel, Vodafone Idea. It will send same recommendation to competent authority in government for their decision,” Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said.

In October 2016, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had recommended imposing a total penalty of Rs 3,050 crore on Airtel, Vodafone and Idea (now merged) for allegedly denying inter-connectivity to Reliance Jio. The penalty on Airtel and Vodafone works out to be about Rs 1,050 crore each. In case of Idea, it comes to about Rs 950 crore.

Since Vodafone and Idea have now merged their businesses, the new entity will have to bear their penalty burden.

“Upon receipt of the formal communication intimating the levy of penalty, we will approach the appropriate forum. We have complete faith in the judicial process and the law of the land,” an Airtel spokesperson said.

The spokesperson argued that the requested points of interconnect were provided within the prescribed time limits and were more than the numbers requested for.

“All these facts were presented to the authorities. It is, therefore, disheartening that those facts have not been considered while taking this arbitrary decision of imposing the penalty,” the spokesperson added.

Trai’s recommendation had come on a complaint by Reliance Jio that over 75 per cent of calls on its network were failing as incumbents were not releasing sufficient number of points of interconnection (PoIs).

Vodafone Idea, in a statement, said the issue pertaining to points of interconnection has been examined by the DoT, various parliamentary and judicial authorities with no case for any default established.

“From media reports its appears that even the DoT committee examining the TRAI recommendations was not unanimous and in fact at least four committee members out of seven had differing views on the subject. Further, the jurisdiction to decide any interconnection dispute between two service providers lies exclusively with TDSAT,” the statement said.

“As India’s leading telecom service provider, we abide by stringent norms of governance and compliance with all applicable laws and regulation while conducting our business in an ethical and conscientious manner. We will explore all options, including seeking legal recourse to protect our interests,” the statement said.

The DCC had last month approved imposing penalty on Airtel and Vodafone Idea. However, before imposing the penalty, the commission decided to seek Trai’s views on revising the Rs 3,050 crore suggested penalty, citing the present financial health of the sector. Trai however, maintained its stand.