DoT seeks Attorney General’s opinion over interconnect penalty

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After the telecom regulator, TRAI, announced a hefty penalty on incumbent operators over interconnect issue, the Telecom Department has sought Attorney-General’s opinion on whether it has the authority to impose penalty for breach of license conditions.

“We have sought A-G’s opinion on whether the authority to impose penalty for (breach of) license condition remains, in the context of Tripura High Court ruling which raised question on our power to impose such penalty,” said an official from Department of Telecom (DoT).

In the end of the last month, telecom regulator- TRAI has suggested imposition of Rs 1,050 Crore penalty for Airtel and Vodafone each, and Rs 950 crore for Idea Cellular, for refusing interconnect to newcomer Reliance Jio.

In its recommendation to DoT, TRAI, said that it has found the trio non-compliant with license conditions and service quality norms, given the high rate of call failures and congestion at interconnect points for Reliance Jio.

Following the TRAI’s recommendation, the Telecom Department sought A-G’s opinion on the matter last week.

While giving recommendation to DoT, TRAI had noted that denial of interconnection by the three operators, Vodafone, Airtel and Idea, to Reliance Jio appears to be with the ulterior motive to stifle competition and is anti-consumer.

The regulator had, in fact, stopped short of recommending cancellation of their telecom licenses, saying it may lead to significant consumer inconvenience. The recommendation came on complaint by Reliance Jio that over 75% of calls on its network are failing as incumbents were not giving sufficient points of interconnect to help complete calls.

In its defence, Airtel had stated that it has done everything ‘humanly’ possible to augment connectivity between its network and Reliance Jio, and is hopeful of ‘objective outcome’ on the penalty issue.

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Sameeksha Bhardwaj, From ITvoir News Desk

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