Reliance Jio Infocomm has written to the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) slamming its letter to the government concerning the AGR verdict fallout. Reliance Jio that is part of the COAI along with Vodafone Idea and Airtel, have said that the Mukesh Ambani-helmed telecom operator was not consulted before the organisation shot the letter to the telecom minister alerting him of the "unprecedented crisis in the telecom industry".
Reliance Jio said that COAI breached their trust by not including their detailed comments that the operator was to provide by the morning of October 30. "We are shocked to know that you have issued the letter shared last night, when it was clearly communicated to you that we will be providing our detailed comments by morning of 30 October 2019," the letter stated. Jio also said that upon query, the COAI "wrongfully tried to justify" the letter. The letter stated that they fail to "understand the need and undue haste in issuing this letter in the midnight".
Reliance Jio's letter stated that merely mentioning that "one of the members" has a divergent view and not actually waiting to elaborate on the view is "another manifestation of COAI's prejudiced mindset". Jio also said that it appears that the letter was sent only on the behest of two other members and called COAI a "mouthpiece of two service providers". It urged COAI to provide its divergent view to the minister.
The letter stated that RJIL "completely disagrees with the intent, tone, contents and connotations" of the letter. "This letter does not represent the industry view by any stretch of imagination," it added.
The letter also stated that Reliance Jio does not agree with statements like "investments and government revenue will suffer, QoS will deteriorate, monopolies will be created, and ambitious government programs will suffer". "We disagree with the threatening and blackmailing tone of COAI," stated the letter.
Reliance Jio stated that the failure of two operators will have no bearing on the industry dynamics. It added that there will always be other vibrant competitors, including PSUs and new entries in the future. It stated that there will also be no impact on digitisation and government programmes "as these operators, anyway were not investing sufficiently in the sector and have been shedding crocodile tears by claiming a financial stress for a long time now". It said that, on the other hand, RJIL promoters have made an equity investment of Rs 1.75 lakh crore in the sector.
Reliance Jio said that despite their "so-called financial stress", both Vodafone-Idea and Airtel have continued their below cost tariffs "especially when there is no competitive pressure compelling continuation of these tariffs". It said that the financial difficulties of these operators are of their own making and the government should not be obliged to bail them out.
"In this letter, COAI has again attempted to rake up the issue of merits of AGR case like notional revenue, which has already been settled by the Supreme Court judgement," it stated. It said that the COAI letter implies that the Supreme Court "did not consider their contentions by not concurring with judgment of TDSAT", which, it stated, is contempt of the court.
"RJIL will like to point out to COAI that judgment of the Supreme Court is final and to be implemented as law of the land," it stated. "We suggest that COAI, as an organisation supposedly representing all operators, should stop blaming the Supreme Court for their orders but ask members to respect judgment and stop forum shopping for relief," it concluded.
In response to Reliance Jio's letter, Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI in a statement said, "This is a private matter between the members of the Association and will be addressed in due course within the ambit of the governance structure of COAI."
The Supreme Court last week had passed an order asking telcos such as Airtel and Vodafone-Idea, and others to pay Rs 92,641 crore to the Department of Telecom (DoT). Airtel will have to shell out Rs 21,682 crore and Vodafone Idea will have to cough up Rs 28,308 crore. The amount by these two operators makes about 54 per cent of the total pending amount. This is a 16-year-old dispute in which DoT argued that a wider number of items - interest income, dividend, profits on the sale of assets, insurance claim and forex gains - should be included as components of AGR.