DoT panel approves levy of penalty on Airtel, Vodafone Idea

June 17, 2019 04:51 pm | Updated 08:00 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Digital Communications Commission, the highest decision-making body of the Department of Telecom, has given its approval for imposing penalty on Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea for denial of interconnection to Reliance Jio when the latter had entered the market.

However, the inter-ministerial panel has asked the Telecom Regulatory authority of India (TRAI) to review the penalty amount of ₹3,050 crore, given the financial stress in the sector, an official source said.

The TRAI had recommended total penalty of ₹3,050 crore on three telcos — Airtel, Vodafone and Idea — in October 2016, for violating their licence agreement and denial of interconnection to newer entrant Reliance Jio. TRAI’s decision had followed a prolonged prolonged battle between Mukesh Ambani-backed Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Celluar. Reliance Jio had alleged that its subscribers were unable to make calls to other networks as those operators were not providing adequate inter connection points.

“DCC has approved imposition of penalty on Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea…However, the Commission has decided to send the recommendations back to TRAI’s for their view on revising quantum of penalty in the backdrop of stress in the sector,” an official source said.

The regulator had, in its recommendations, stated that the act of the three operators was against public interest and in violation of their licence agreement, which warrants revocation of the licence.

Not troubling users

However, it recommended penalty, instead, to avoid consumer inconvenience.

While the recommended fine for Airtel and Vodafone amounted to ₹1,050 crore each, for Idea it was ₹950 crore. Since then, Vodafone and Idea have merged to form Vodafone Idea, the largest telecom carrier in India.

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