While the top telcos in the country are in hot water with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the buzz is that industry disruptor Reliance Jio is facing the steepest fine of them all.
Sources in the know told PTI that the telecom regulator has imposed penalties on major telecom operators, including Bharti Airtel, Jio, Vodafone and Idea Cellular [now merged], for slipping on various service quality benchmarks for the March quarter. All the operators are in the process of making the payment, they added.
Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio, which debuted in September 2016 and unleashed a price war that left the sector bleeding and forced into consolidation mode, has been slapped with a penalty of about Rs 34 lakh. The penalty was on account of norms relating to Point of Interconnect congestion, accessibility of call centres or customer care, and percentage of calls answered by operators [voice to voice] in a set timeframe.
Bharti Airtel, which was the largest telecom operator in the country till the merger of Vodafone and Idea Cellular shuffled the pecking order late last month, has been fined around Rs 11 lakh for the three months to March. Sources claimed that its penalties related to parameters such as metering and billing [postpaid], accessibility of call centre and customer care and percentage of calls answered by operators within defined timeframe parameters.
Idea Cellular was fined about Rs 12.5 lakh, for issues like call drops, percentage of calls answered by operators within a set timeframe, and requests for closure of services complied within seven days. In comparison, the March quarter penalties for Vodafone stood much lower at about Rs 4 lakh on issues like metering and billing (pre-paid), time taken to comply with request for termination or closure of service, and percentage of calls answered by operators within a timeframe.
To remind you, last year TRAI had devised new assessment methods for a better insight into dropped call rates and had asked players to abide by its new quality of service (QoS) benchmarks from October 1, 2017. Significantly, the new rules came along with a new graded penalty system - in the range of Rs 1-5 lakh depending on the performance of a network, with stringent fines for repeat violations. However, the penalties are subject to a cap of Rs 10 lakh in a three-month period, starting January 1, 2018.
The latest assessment reflects how the operators have fared between January and March 2018 on Trai's new QoS benchmarks. The regulator has been maintaining that it does not wish to name specific operators or the penalties slapped on them for not meeting the service quality criteria. Accordingly, it has never published this information either on its website or through a statement.
With PTI inputs