Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, and Idea Cellular have slammed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), accusing it of delaying taking action even as norms of network testing and launch were allegedly being flouted by new operator Reliance Jio.

In written submissions to the TRAI following the regulator's decision to float a consultation paper on Network Testing before Commercial Launch of Services, telcos said Jio was allowed to amass 1.5 million subscribers during its test phase.

TRAI issued the paper on May 1, and invited feedback from stakeholders before June 26. Their objection is that TRAI's consultation paper came too late and was no longer relevant, since the 'damage has already been done by the new entrant,' and suggested a well-defined timeline for testing purposes, restricting it to only 60–100 SIMs.

'TRAI failed to act on a suo-moto basis over the violation of these rules, despite the fact that the industry players had been pleading and seeking intervention over this issue for months as the new entrant sought a large number of points-of-interconnects (POIs) during the test phase itself,' Bharti Airtel said.

The issue of testing of services before commercial launch came into focus last year when Jio opened up subscription to customers, offering free calls and data.

Telcos said that Jio was using the test phase to amass subscribers. They further said they would not offer additional POIs to Jio. Telcos exchange PoIs amongst themselves in order for their subscribers to be able to make calls across networks.

'It is also surprising that our contentions that RJIL was running a commercial service in the garb of a test service were dismissed by TRAI as a commercial and inter-operator issue in its letter dated October 21, 2016 when the TRAI itself in June 2016 was sure that over 5 lakh SIMs issued by Reliance Jio were not in compliance with licensing terms and conditions,' the submission from Vodafone India stated.

Idea Cellular blamed the regulator's lackadaisical approach and inordinate delay of almost 9 months to deal with the critical issue that had resulted in a plethora of problems for the ailing sector.

Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited dismissed the charges of adding subscribers under disguise, terming it a non-issue and saying the new rules would clarify the issue.

'Despite existing regulatory clarity around network testing, this non-issue has been created by incumbent operators in the face of commencement of service by a new entrant in the telecom market,' Jio said in a statement.

It added that no restrictions can be put on the scale and timelines of testing, in case the objective is to provide the best-in-the-class service to customers. Money Cantrol


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