Denial of interconnection "appears to be with ulterior motive to stifle competition and is anti consumer", Trai said
Telecom regulator Trai, on Friday, recommended a total penalty of Rs 3,050 crore (Rs 30.50 billion) on incumbent players Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular for denying interconnection facility to newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm.
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone have been slapped with a fine of Rs 50 crore for 21 circles each (except J&K). Idea faced the same amount of penalty for 19 circles each.
Reliance Jio, which launched its services on September 5, had approached Trai alleging that incumbent players were denying it sufficient number of interconnection ports leading to huge call failures on its network.
The regulator recommended to the Department of Telecom imposing penalties on the big three players after it found that the operators were non-compliant with licence conditions.
Denial of interconnection "appears to be with ulterior motive to stifle competition and is anti consumer", Trai said.
The regulator stopped short of recommending cancellation of their telecom licences saying it may lead to "significant consumer inconvenience".
Reliance Jio has said its customers are facing 75 per cent call failures on Airtel, Vodafone and Idea cellular networks due to insufficient interconnection facility provided by the incumbent operators.
As per the service quality norms, not more than five out of 1000 calls should fail at the point of interconnect.
Coming down heavily on the erring operators, the regulator went to the extent of saying that the non-compliance of licence terms and condition "warrants" recommendations for revocation of licence.
"However, the authority is mindful of the fact that revocation of the licence will entail significant consumer inconvenience and therefore in view of the larger public interest involved, the authority recommends a penal action of Rs 50 crore per LSA (circle)...," it said.
When contacted, the companies refused to comment on the issue.
Photograph: Ajay Verma/Reuters