The umbrella body of cellular operators in India said on Friday its officials were barred by sector regulator Trai from a meeting called to discuss a tussle over network interconnection, blaming new entrant Reliance Jio of conspiring against rival companies.
The Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) said its officials were kept out at the insistence of Jio, launched by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani. Jio’s offer of free voice calls and rock-bottom data prices is being seen as a potential game-changer that could fuel an all-out price war in India which has 950-odd million mobile subscribers.
“Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) acquiesced to their (Jio’s) demand in an unprecedented manner,” COAI director-general Rajan S Mathews said.
Jio denied the charge. “We have not said any such thing,” said Reliance Jio Infocomm board member Mahendra Nahata.
“This is a fight for justice, fight for customers — not just Reliance Jio customers or Airtel or Vodafone, but for all Indian customers.”
Representatives of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea were invited to the meeting, called in the wake of Jio’s allegation that rival operators were not providing the required equipment to connect its mobile network with theirs.
Interconnection enables mobile customers to make calls on numbers of other operators. The COAI has confronted Reliance Jio on behalf of incumbent operators, seeking clarity on whether Jio’s services are now “commercial”.
Reliance Jio has said its services are free till December 31, following which consumers will be charged as per tariff plans that will include free voice calls.