Business

As TRAI and COAI Quibble, Interconnection Issue May Continue for Three More Months

The industry lobby was allegedly kept out of the meeting, which made some steps at increasing points of interconnect, by TRAI at the behest of Reliance Jio.

A general view of Reliance Jio headquarters is seen on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, June 1, 2016. Picture taken June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Clara Ferreira Marques

A general view of Reliance Jio headquarters is seen on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, June 1, 2016. Picture taken June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Clara Ferreira Marques

New Delhi: The Cellular Operations Association of India (COAI) was not allowed to attend a meeting of telecom operators organised by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), according to a statement put out by the industry lobby.

The meeting, which had executives from Reliance Jio, Airtel, Vodafone and Idea hash out the issue of interconnection ports, was convened by TRAI on Friday after incumbent telecom operators publicly declared that they could not provide points of interconnect for Reliance Jio users.

In a statement, COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews declared that the industry lobby was “kept out of the TRAI meeting at the insistence of Reliance Jio and TRAI acquiesced to their demand, in an unprecedented manner.” A Reliance Jio Infocomm board member, who was present in the meeting, refuted the allegation to PTI, saying they did not make any such request, adding, whosoever is invited should attend.

For its part, TRAI, in a letter to COAI, asked the industry lobby body to apologise for the “malafide and patently wrong” statement issued by Mathews.

“The statement of Director General, COAI in the electronic media alleging that he was not allowed by Trai to participate in the said meeting at the behest of Reliance Jio is to say the least patently wrong, mischievous and perhaps with malafide intention,” the letter said.

Three months more

The meeting itself, however, made a certain amount of headway into solving the point of interconnection issue. COAI pointed out that incumbent telecom operators would consider providing “reasonable incremental capacity” in terms of interconnect ports for Reliance Jio users. It’s main argument, which The Wire has laid out, is the confusion over Reliance Jio’s trial launch and the lack of a phased commercial launch.

Reliance Jio board member Mahendra Nahata pointed out that the company had requested the regulator for unfettered access to the “right quantity of points of interconnections”. “We did not ask and TRAI itself did not commit to any time-frame,” said Nahata.

According to sources The Wire spoke with, if an arrangement is agreed upon between Reliance Jio and Airtel-Vodafone, it could take close to three months for more interconnection points to be fully available. This means for the next sixty to ninety days, Reliance Jio users could still have problems calling Airtel, Vodafone or Idea users.

Invitation issue

The COAI had earlier written to TRAI about today’s meeting, saying that more operators and stakeholders than just Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Reliance Jio should be invited; as it pertains to all members of COAI. “Therefore we request TRAI to invite all members of COAI for the said meeting,”  the COAI letter to TRAI said. COAI in August had accused the regulator of being biased, but later apologised for levelling such allegations.

Reliance Jio, which commercially launched its services on September 5, had earlier accused incumbent players for not releasing sufficient interconnection ports and had sought legal action against them. COAI has been confronting Reliance Jio representing views of incumbent telecom operators, saying that is the view of majority in the association. Reliance Jio is also member of COAI, but has been sidelined by leading telecom operators in the association.

(With inputs from PTI)