Hours after attending a meeting called by TRAI on providing interconnection to Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel said the new operator’s interconnection related problems should be resolved after January 1, 2017.
Bharti Airtel said it expects Reliance Jio to be a ‘commercial telecom operator’ by January 1, after which such problems will no longer plague the company.
The statement seems to imply a deepening stalemate between Jio and its incumbent competitors.
While Reliance Jio maintains that it qualifies fully as a commercial operator, Airtel’s latest statement implies that the company does not see Jio as a commercial operator like itself.
India’s telecom laws prohibit blocking of calls coming from other operators.
By calling Jio a non-commercial operator at present, Bharti Airtel seems to be getting ready to defend its stance of not providing as many interconnect points as is required to avoid bottlenecks in RJio’s voice traffic.
“Following the commercial charging of services by Reliance Jio, which is expected by Jan 1, 2017, the traffic will inevitably get to a more balanced level and PoIs will be less of an issue,” it said.
The statement is likely to anger the Mukesh Ambani-led company even more.
The firm had been planning to disclose its tariffs and start ‘commercial operations’ only by Jan 1, but its rivals — including Bharti Airtel — are reported to have pressured the government to get RJio to ‘go commercial’.
According to the license granted by the government of India to Bharti Airtel, it is mandatory for it to interconnect to and provide interconnection to all eligible Telecom Service Providers in the country.
The term ‘eligible telecom service providers’ refers to all commercial telecom companies.
By calling Jio a non-commercial entity, Bharti is making sure that it is legally on safer grounds, though it still remains open to a legal challenge from the Ambani firm.
The terms ‘eligible service provider’ and ‘commercial telecom operator’ are not specifically defined in telecom laws.
Jio, on its part, said it has completed all requirements to be a telecom service provider, including filing of tariffs before the TRAI, paying spectrum charges etc.
However, Bharti Airtel seems to imply with its statement today that since Jio is offering its services free till interconnection problems are sorted out, it’s not a commercial service provider. And since it’s not a commercial operator, the interconnect conditions may not apply.
On the other hand, Jio is unlikely to be able to charge for its service until interconnection problems are sorted out — which leaves the Ambani company between a rock and a hard place.
If it starts charging customers without having a functioning voice service, it risks incurring the wrath of its users. But as long as it does not charge them for its services, it is unlikely to have a functioning voice service.
Bharti Airtel said it does not believe that it has violated its license conditions, which also includes a provision that says interconnection cannot be denied to other operators.
Airtel “is fully compliant with all regulatory guidelines and licence conditions,” the company said.
Interestingly, the company also said it will continue its efforts to “augment the hundreds of PoIs already given to Reliance Jio, as per the bilateral agreement, so that customers are not inconvenienced.”