Reliance Jio on Monday threatened to take legal recourse against telecom lobby group Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) dragging an already ugly battle between the two to a new low.
The advent of RelJio into the market has made its rivals wary and the strategy that it has adopted, which is to start small and go big, has a visible impact on actions by COAI on behalf of its other members. Jio, too, is a COAI member.
The intensity of the battle is such that COAI has not only dragged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) into the matter, accusing it of favouring a new entrant, but attempts have also been made to draw the attention of the Prime Minister’s Office. The stage is set for an intense fight in the sector as RelJio slowly spreads its wings, which is also likely to coincide with the sale of India’s largest ever spectrum auction, beginning September 29. Here is how matters have unfolded in the past:
The Interconnect Points
It all started with RelJio claiming that COAI has rejected additional interconnect points demanded by Jio from existing operators in a letter to Trai chairman RS Sharma. COAI responded saying that the points provided by the operators are sufficient to support 15-20 million users and that RelJio only has nearly 2-3 million customers. Points of interconnection are where two networks connect with each other. Subsequently, RelJio accused the telcos of breach of licence agreement and also requested Trai to take action against telcos.
Clous over Jio’s Commercial Launch
On August 8, COAI wrote a letter to the department of telecom claiming that RelJio was generating data volumes which were 25-30 times the Indian average and bypassing government regulations with predatory pricing and unfair competition. The letter requested the telecom department and the regulator to intervene in the matter and instruct RelJio to stop providing services masquerading as tests.
COAI’s Core Members
RelJio, in its response dated August 10, termed the contents of COAI’s letter “malicious, unfounded and ill informed”. RelJio has invested over ₹1,34,000 crore so far in the project and would invest over ₹1,50,000 crore in this phase of the project. This is higher than the gross block of any of the incumbent operators, it said.
To the PMO
On August 11, the industry lobby group COAI wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office expressing “deep concern” over the recent consultation papers floated by the telecom regulator. The association cited bias and accused Trai of adopting discriminatory practices against existing telecom operators. “It seems that some of the papers have been crafted and timed to serve interests of some new entrants in the sector, with complete disregard for the massive investments made by existing operators,” COAI said in its letter.