Indian operators Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone India face a probe over allegations they formed a cartel to deny new entrant Reliance Jio adequate Points of Interconnection (PoI), which led to a loss of service.
According to The Economic Times (ET), the Competition Commission of India (CCI) ordered an in-depth investigation into the complaint, first filed by Jio in November 2016.
At the time, Jio accused the three players of “abuse of dominance and cartelisation”, claiming the operators had united to deny it PoI’s required for its calls to go through to other networks.
Jio said more than 75 per cent of calls on its network at the time were failing, in what it said was an attempt to sabotage its entry into the market.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) then recommended the government’s Department of Telecommmunications (DoT) hit the three operators with a fine for violating rules. The DoT since said it wants clarifications and reasons for the penalties.
Jio caused a stir after launching its operations in September 2016, igniting a price war with rivals with a series of free data offers.
Since then, Vodafone and Idea Cellular agreed to merge in a mega deal, designed to counter the growing competition in the Indian market.
Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone India refute the claims. Indeed, Bharti Airtel submitted its own complaint to the CCI in February, accusing Jio of predatory pricing and anti-competitive behaviour. The commission is yet to make a decision on the compliant.
The CCI will also look into the conduct of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), for allegedly promoting the interests of India’s top three players, ET reported.
Jio, which is also a member of the association, alleges the COAI prevented its smooth entry into the Indian market, sources told the newspaper.
Rajan Mathews, COAI director general, said the association and its members “will be fully vindicated in the matter, and the truth will prevail”.
“COAI always has and will continue to work with all its members and the government toward a facilitative policy and regulatory ecosystem for a stable, long-term, predictable policy and regulatory ecosystem that facilitates affordability, growth, innovation and investments”.