Millennium Post

Telecom Commission seeks clarity from Trai on Rs 3,050-crore fine

Inter-ministerial panel Telecom Commission on Monday sought clarity from Trai on Rs 3,050-crore penalty that the watchdog recommended on three operators, including Airtel and Vodafone, for allegedly violating interconnect norms and its power to impose fine in such cases.

Besides, the Commission also approved demand of Rs 2,834 crore, including interest, to be raised from nine telecom operators such as MTS, Tata Teleservices, Videocon, STEL, Idea Cellular and Uninor (now Telenor), who provided services between the period February 2012, when Supreme Court cancelled their licences, and till the time they procured fresh permits after buying spectrum in auction.

The Commission has sought clarity on whether Trai can recommend penalty in violations related to interconnection issues, a source said.

"The Telecom Commission has asked DoT to seek clarification from Trai on 10-12 points, including if the 90-day period was given to telecom operators for providing points of interconnection, method of calculating penalty of Rs 50 crore per circle etc and whether it can recommend penalty in such cases," the official source said.

The source said that clarification has been sought based on the recommendation of an expert panel set up in the Department of Telecom (DoT) to study suggestion of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

"Trai has recommended penalty based on telecom licence as contract so clarification will be sought why it has not used interconnection agreement as contract. Also, congestion in network is calculated over a period of month so whether congestion was calculated on monthly average or not," the source said.

In October Trai recommended imposing total penalty of Rs 3,050 crore on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea for allegedly denying interconnectivity to newcomer Reliance Jio.

As per Trai's recommendation, the penalty for Airtel and Vodafone works out to about Rs 1,050 crore each, while in case of Idea Cellular it comes to about Rs 950 crore. The regulator stopped short of recommending cancellation of their telecom licences saying it may lead to significant consumer inconvenience.

The Trai's recommendation came on complaint by Reliance Jio that over 75 per cent of calls on its network were failing as incumbents were not releasing sufficient number of PoIs.

In August, Reliance Jio had submitted to Trai that it will need 12,727 PoIs for mobile services and 3,068 PoIs for STD call facility before commercial launch of its services.

The company launched commercial services on September 5.

Talking about one-time spectrum fee demand, the official said that the amount has been revised upward to Rs 2,834 crore with interest from Rs 2,557 calculated earlier.

"The demand notices will be issued sometime in the next week," the official said.
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