As bickerings continue between Reliance Jio and incumbent mobile operators, the Competition Commission of India has now started a probe alleging ganging of old operators against the new comer. Whatever may be the findings of the probe, it is going to further charge the volatile atmosphere of the Indian cellular market…

NEW DELHI, MAY 12, 2017: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered a probe against telecom majors, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, for allegedly trying to block the entry of Reliance Jio.

The CCI has decided to investigate allegations of unfair business practices made against the incumbent telecom player, and said it will also examine the overall conduct of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), especially since the allegations of anti-competitive practices have been made against three of its key members, according to media reports.

The decision comes on a complaint filed against the three players and the COAI for allegedly trying to restrict the entry of Reliance Jio. The CCI has concluded that dominant telecom players colluded and used the COAI platform to deny points of interconnection to Reliance Jio, as per a media report.

The COAI’s role will be looked into in the context of Section 3 of the Competition Act that pertains to anti-competitive agreements.

A decision on the complaints filed by the incumbents that Reliance Jio was indulging in predatory pricing is yet to be taken up.

“We believe COAI and its members will be fully vindicated in the matter,” said Rajan S Mathews, DG, COAI said.

He said the COAI will continue to work towards a facilitative policy and regulatory ecosystem for a stable, long-term predictable policy environment which facilitates, affordability, growth, innovation and investments.

“In the interim, the matter is also before the High Court and TDSAT and we also await the conclusions from these judicial bodies…The sector is already bleeding and an unambiguous clear regulatory and policy environment is the need of the hour to improve the financial health of the sector,” he added.

Jio and the three incumbent operators have been at loggerheads even before the former’s commercial launch on September 5, 2016 on the issue of PoIs.

The matter was arbitrated by Trai after which incumbent operators released more number of PoIs. However, still there were allegations.

Subsequently, on October 21, 2016 the Trai recommended a fine of Rs 50 crore per circle against the three incumbent operators for denying sufficient PoIs to Jio. While a fine of Rs 50 crore each for 21 circles was recommended for Bharti and Vodafone, for Idea the same was for 19 circles. This fine has not been implemented since the department of telecommunications has sought clarifications from Trai on the relevant clauses under which the fine has been levied.

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