Government approved a combined penalty of 3,050 crore rupees ($442 million) on telecom giants Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea for not providing points of interconnection to Reliance Jio when it began operations in 2016.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in 2016 recommended the penalty against Airtel and what were then Vodafone India unit and Idea Cellular, saying the three denied points of interconnection to Jio, a move it termed as anti-consumer and aimed at sweltering competition.
Digital Communications Commission on Wednesday backed the telecom watchdog’s recommendations.
Both Vodafone Idea and Airtel criticised the decision
Vodafone Idea, India’s biggest telecom carrier said in a statement, adding, it will “explore all options, including seeking legal recourse” to protect company interests.
A spokesman for Bharti said the company was “extremely disappointed” and the decision would further burden the high stress in the telecom sector.
Bharti will approach the “appropriate forum” and has complete faith in the country’s judicial process, the company’s spokesman added.
Reliance Jio, built at a cost of over $30 billion by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, offered free services for 6 months after its launch.
That forced its then three rivals – Bharti, Vodafone and Idea – to cut prices and accept lower profits as well as sparking a wave of consolidation in the sector.
By: Abhinav Ranjan, Editorial Desk, DKODING Media