Reliance Communications on Friday approached telecom tribunal TDSAT accusing Bharti Airtel of blocking international calls originated on its network instead of forwarding them to Intelligent Network - a services used for toll free numbers.

Issuing notice to Airtel and the Department of Telecom, a TDSAT bench headed by its Chairman Justice S B Sinha asked the Sunil Mittal—led company maintain status quo and said no call to Intelligent Network (IN) numbers would be blocked till August 9, the next date of hearing.

Bharti Airtel would also file a short reply within two weeks and RCom a rejoinder, it further said.

Under IN services, special toll free numbers are assigned under special 1800 series, which are free to the calling party, but a telephone carrier feed is charged from the subscriber who owns the toll free number.

Airtel and RCom had entered into an agreement on May 8, 2007 for forwarding calls made on toll free/free numbers.

During the proceedings senior advocate Ramji Srinivasan appearing for RCom alleged that Bharti Airtel after five years of agreement is now contending such free calls cannot be terminated outside India.

As per the agreement, both the firms were forwarding calls made to IN number respectively from their networks sharing revenue of 52 paise per minute, he said.

However Senior counsel Maninder Singh appearing for Airtel said that “it was fraud” on them. The agreement was only for call within India.

“IN numbers, which they (RCom) are using is to be terminated in India are terminating abroad. It’s a fraud on us. It is illegal and that is why we have even told DoT about it,” he said.

According to RCom, the agreement between them provides that they would “provide their IN customers of one party access to respective subscribers on the other’s network through free phone service... there is no condition in the agreement that the calls can not be terminated outside India”.

“Respondent No 1 (Airtel) now with the malafide intent alleging that under the agreement free phone calls can not be terminated outside India and has on that pretext, arbitrarily withdrawn access to its subscribers and blocked some IN customers of the petitioner (RCom) including those whose calls terminate within India”, RCom said in its petition.

It further added that “Bharti Airtel is attempting to create an artificial distinction between calls terminating in India and outside India.”

(This article was published on July 27, 2012)
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