Back in September 2016, when Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd first made its commercial services available to the public with unlimited phone calls, it filed a complaint with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that a majority of calls on its network were failing as its competitors were not providing sufficient PoIs.
In the telecom industry, an interconnection means commercial and technical arrangements between service providers to connect their equipment, network and services to benefit customers across networks and PoI or point of interconnect is a mutually agreed point where the exchange of traffic between the two operators can take place.
When such a complaint was filed, the rival operators of Jio said that the free voice calls offered had led to a "tsunami" of traffic on their networks.
In October 2016, TRAI recommended imposing total penalty of Rs 3,050 crore on Airtel, Vodafone Idea for allegedly denying interconnectivity to newcomer RJio.
In line with the same case, on Monday, (17 June 2019), Digital Communications Commission (DCC), the apex decision-making body of the telecom department, approved the imposation of a penalty on these leading telecom operators but has sought views of the TRAI on revising the penalty amid the financial stress in the sector.
Back when the recommendation was made, Rs 1,050 crore each was to be imposed as penalty on Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone India Ltd. A penalty of Rs 950 crore was to be imposed on Idea Cellular Ltd. Since Vodafone and Idea have now merged, the new entity Vodafone Idea will have to bear the burden of both companies.
Following the complaint filed in 2016, the TRAI has issued new guidelines in 2018 that require telecom operators to sign an interconnection agreement on a non-discriminatory basis within 30 days of receipt of a network connectivity request. A penalty of a maximum of Rs one lakh a day, per circle, for operators was to be issued on those that violate these rules.
The regulations were issued with significance as there were no existing guidelines on the time frame for entering into such network connectivity pacts. There was also no rules on any penalties to be charged on defaulting operators.