The fight between Reliance Jio Infocomm and the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) has travelled beyond the shores.

On the eve of the Mobile World Congress here, COAI insisted it will not apologise to the Mukesh Ambani-owned telecom company.

Speaking to BusinessLine here, Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI, said: “I will not apologise. There is no question of apologising to Reliance Jio, as there is no worthy reason to do so. The COAI’s differences are with the Telecom Regulatory of Authority of India’s (TRAI) order, not with any specific operator.”

Both the parties have been trading charges for the past week, with RJio sending a letter to COAI, asking Mathews to apologise for his comment in a press release.

Monopoly charges

Mathews had said TRAI’s latest order on tariff plans are focused around ‘one particular operator with deep pockets’ and monopolistic designs at the expense of other operators. Although COAI did not name RJio, it was clearly pointing to the company’s plans and offers aimed at wooing customers.

RJio wrote to COAI and its senior members, asking Mathews to apologise publicly within 48 hours, saying the press release had made “defamatory statements against RJio”. The letter was sent on February 22 and and it now well beyond 48 hours.

When asked about not responding yet to the letter, Mathews said: “We believe the industry is going through a tough time, and it is important to raise issues and point our serious reservations about the TRAI order in the interest of the industry. We are still examining Jio’s letter and are in discussions with our legal counsel and our members to take a call on whether a response is warranted.

“Our differences are with the orders of the regulator and not with any specific operator. Our intention is not to aggrieve any particular operator.”

He further said “individual operators” are free to vigorously pursue the interests of their enterprises under the framework of the laws of the land.

“However, the regulator’s (TRAI) role is to ensure the competing claims of companies are appropriately handled in the interest of the entire industry. This is the mandate of the TRAI Act, which specifically tasks it with ensuring the orderly growth of the industry,” he said.

“We’d also like to put on record that all our other member operators are unanimous in their support of our position, with absolutely no exceptions. Our endeavour is to work towards actualising the Prime Minister’s vision of a fully connected and empowered Digital India,” he added.

(The writer is in Barcelona to cover the Mobile World Congress, at the invitation of Huawei India.)

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