October 21, 2021

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Voda Idea, Airtel move TDSAT against DoT penalty demand

and (Vi) have moved Telecom Department Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) against the telecom department’s demand for penalties for allegedly denying Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) adequate points of interconnection (PoIs) in 2016, which affected the quality of services.

Airtel and Vi’s move comes on the back of DoT slapping the two telcos with cumulative penalties worth Rs 3,050 crore to be paid within three weeks for flouting licence conditions. TDSAT will hear the case on Tuesday.

This battle front comes shortly after the government came out with a relief package to help the debt laden telecom sector and said it also intends to reduce litigation in the telecom sector as part of continuing efforts to improve the health of operators.

Infact in another case of one time spectrum charges (OTSC), which was being fought in Supreme Court this month, DoT informed that it wants to reconsider its appeal against a telecom tribunal ruling backing telcos’ argument that the OTSC should be levied prospectively.

As per the latest set of penalties in this PoI case, Airtel has to pay Rs 1,050 crore and Vodafone Idea has to pay Rs 2,000 crore to the government.

The battle started when Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had recommended fines of Rs1,050 crore each in 2016 on Vodafone India and Bharti Airtel for violating licence conditions over quality of service by not granting adequate PoIs to Jio in 21 circles each.

Idea Cellular was fined Rs 950 crore for flouting rules in 19 circles. PoIs are required for voice calls to go through from one network to another – in this case, from Jio’s network to those of Bharti, Idea and Vodafone.

Vodafone and Idea merged in August, 2018. The DoT accepted the regulator’s recommendations in June 2019 but had not served the notices till now.

“We are deeply disappointed with the arbitrary and unfair demand based on Trai recommendations of 2016 relating to provisions of point of interconnect to a new operator,” an Airtel spokesperson said in a statement when it received the penalties this month. . “These allegations were frivolous and motivated. Bharti Airtel takes pride in maintaining high standards of compliance and has always followed the law of the land. We will challenge the demand and pursue the legal options available to us.”

Both telcos did not respond to ET’s queries on moving TDSAT.

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