Our Bureau

New Delhi, March 30

CELLULAR operators have lodged a complaint with the telecom regulator against the unlimited talktime tariffs offered by Reliance Infocomm on grounds that it was predatory in nature.

Cellular operators have told the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that the Reliance offer was in violation of a tariff order that barred operators from indulging in differential tariffs.

In a letter written to the TRAI, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said, "It is submitted that these tariffs are predatory as the same tariff and rates are not transparently available to the other access providers who are its competitors. We believe that by offering such tariffs, Reliance is squeezing the margins of it competitors as it has lowered its retail tariffs of competitive services in the downstream market whilst not extending this facility to its competitors for wholesale prices (carriage charges) in the upstream market."

COAI pointed out that TRAI in its tariff order had said that any differential tariff assuming the nature of vertical price squeeze will not be permitted.

The tariff package in question is the New Unlimited Talk-time tariff plans from Reliance Infocomm, which offer unlimited talktime to other Reliance phones anywhere across the country.

COAI has drawn attention to the Plan 435 that offers unlimited talktime to Reliance subscribers between Chennai-Tamil Nadu, Kolkata-West Bengal and Mumbai-Maharashtra.

COAI pointed out that TRAI has already clarified that vertical price squeeze is a recognised anti-competitive practice that may be engaged by an operator with significant market power. "It is submitted that Reliance is an operator with significant market power and its tariff plans, by virtue of offering `unlimited' talktime to its own customers across different service areas, are in violation of the Authority's tariff order."

Cellular operators said that the telecom regulator should ask Reliance to immediately withdraw the "predatory" tariff plans.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 31, 2005)
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