The Digital Communications Commission (DCC) on Wednesday approved the penalty imposed on Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea amounting to ₹3,050 crore (cumulative) for not providing points of interconnection to Reliance Jio.
The decision comes after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently maintained its stand that t is not in a position to modify its previously recommended penalty on the operators as it is bound by the provisions of the TRAI Act.
“The DCC has accepted TRAI’s recommendation on penalty on Airtel and Vodafone Idea. It will send the same recommendation to the competent authority in the government for its decision,” Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary, Department of Telecom (DoT), told reporters here.
In October 2016, TRAI had recommended imposing a total penalty of ₹3,050 crore on Airtel, Vodafone and Idea (now merged) for allegedly denying inter-connectivity to Reliance Jio.
The DCC, the apex decision-making body of DoT, last month approved imposing a penalty on both the operators for not providing points of interconnection to Reliance Jio. But, before imposing the penalty, the Commission decided to seek TRAI’s views on revising the ₹3,050-crore suggested penalty, citing the ‘present financial health of the sector’.
Reacting to the latest development, both Airtel and Vodafone Idea said that they were disappointed with the decision to impose penalty.
“This is despite the fact that the total number of POIs (points of interconnection) provided were more than sufficient for the projections provided on the number of customers. Further, the requested POIs 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,” an Airtel spokesperson said.
Given the recent forced consolidation due to the financial stress that the sector is going through, this decision will impose an additional burden on the already stretched balance sheets of the operators, and will adversely impact the government’s vision of a digitally inclusive and empowered India, he said.
“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,” he added.