NEW DELHI: After the telecom regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) suggested 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 licence conditions, according to PTI report.
“We have sought A-G’s opinion on whether the authority to impose penalty for (breach of) licence condition remains, in the context of Tripura High Court ruling which raised question on our power to impose such penalty,” a Department of Telecom (DoT) official said.
Late last month, telecom regulator TRAI had suggested imposition of Rs 1,050 crore penalty each for Airtel and Vodafone, and Rs 950 crore for Idea Cellular, for denying interconnect to newcomer Reliance Jio.
TRAI in its recommendation to DoT, said it has found the trio non-compliant with licence conditions and service quality norms, given the high rate of call failures and congestion at interconnect points for Reliance Jio.
Following TRAI’s recommendation, the Telecom Department sought A-G’s opinion on the matter last week, sources pointed out.
Sources further indicated that DoT may not make any move on setting up internal committees to examine the matter from commercial and technical aspects, till such time it receives A-G’s opinion on the larger issue of its authority to impose penalty.
While giving its recommendation to DoT, TRAI had noted that denial of interconnection by the three operators to RJio “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 licences, saying it may lead to “significant consumer inconvenience”. The recommendation came on complaint by Reliance Jio that over 75 per cent 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.