Telecom firms (telcos) Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi) received notices from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for the payment of a total penalty of Rs 3,050 crore, The Economic Times reported. It was reported that the fines are expected to be paid within three weeks.
The report stated that the fine is for “flouting licence conditions by denying Reliance Jio Infocomm adequate points of connection (PoIs) in 2016, which affected the quality of services”.
Vi has to pay Rs 2,000 crore, and Airtel has to pay Rs 1,050 crore. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) suggested Rs 1,050 fines for both for “not granting adequate PoIs in 21 circles each” in 2016. Vi’s more significant penalty comes from the merging with Idea Cellular in 2018, which was fined Rs 950 crore for defying laws in 19 circles.
A spokesperson from Airtel said the paper described the demand as irrational and unfair and that they are very disappointed.
“These allegations were frivolous and motivated. Bharti Airtel takes pride in maintaining high standards of compliance and has always followed the law of the land. We will challenge the demand and pursue the legal options available to us,” they added. Vi did not respond to the inquiries, according to the report.
The report continued that while DoT had affirmed TRAI’s suggestions in June 2019, it did not follow the notices till now.
In October 2019, TRAI had ordered that Airtel, Idea and Vodafone measures ahead of Jio’s launch “appeared to stifle competition and were against the public interest” and justified the strictest action, licence removal, but rather suggested the costliest financial fines of Rs 50 crore per circle, “keeping in mind consumer inconveniences”.
The bills arrive in addition to the vast aggregated gross revenue (AGR) and spectrum dues which are pending by both telcos and follow after the Centre’s September reformations which gives the debt-pressed sector some relaxation.