Telcos continue to spar over interconnect ports

Continuing their war of words, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio today accused Bharti Airtel of providing less than one-fourth of the necessary interconnect points to complete calls between the two networks, a charge vehemently denied by the Sunil Mittal-led firm.

Telcos continue to spar over interconnect ports

New Delhi: Continuing their war of words, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio today accused Bharti Airtel of providing less than one-fourth of the necessary interconnect points to complete calls between the two networks, a charge vehemently denied by the Sunil Mittal-led firm.

Reliance Jio, the newest player in telecom arena, alleged that Airtel was abusing its market dominance and was indulging in "anti-competitive behaviour", as it put the blame for over two crore call failures everyday squarely on the older rival.

"It is apparent that Airtel continues to abuse its market dominance by imposing onerous conditions which will imminently hinder RJIL's ability to efficiently utilise the additional E1s," it said in a statement.

"It appears that the QoS (Quality of Service) will continue to suffer and Indian customers will be denied the benefits of superior and free voice services as a result of such anti-competitive behaviour," it added.

The comments come a day after Airtel said it will work towards releasing the points of interconnect or PoIs "well ahead" of the contractual obligation.

Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL) said the PoIs provided to enable its users to complete calls on existing operators' network were "substantially less".

It said two crore calls fail daily as the largest telecom operator dilly dallies on adequate PoIs.

"Based on the current traffic flow between the two networks, the proposed augmentation by Airtel would still only suffice for less than one-fourth of the required interconnection capacity," it said.

Responding to the charge, Bharti Airtel categorically denied what it called was "the rhetorical statements made by Reliance Jio with regard to the release of additional PoIs from Airtel to Jio and mobile number portability (MNP) requests."

"Following the bilateral discussions on September 13, 2016, Airtel agreed to release the additional PoIs to Jio on the same day itself and raised the demand notes on September 14, 2016.

"With the latest augmentation, the total number of PoIs provided will become three times the present number of PoIs. This capacity will be sufficient to serve over 15 million customers, which is much more than their present subscriber base and their demand for 10 million projected customers," Airtel said.

Stating that it has ensured that there are no capacity constraints from its end, Airtel said it is providing PoIs to Jio well ahead of the commencement of its commercial operations.

"The additional PoIs now need to be physically connected and tested by both parties. We have already requested Jio's cooperation in this regard. Airtel's network teams across circles are ready and waiting for Jio to commence the testing.

"However, it is Jio that seems to be dilly-dallying on the issue and not cooperating deliberately," it said.

Airtel said the "constant rhetoric" may be a "ploy" by Jio to cover up some technical issues in their own network, which is causing call failures.

"In addition, call drops or the lack of VoLTE stabilisation should not be hidden behind the issue of PoIs, which are being augmented at regular and quick intervals," it said.

In its statement, RJIL said it has been consistently highlighted the urgency of the requirement and impact on Quality of Service.

"More than two crore calls are failing everyday between the two networks, which is far in excess of QoS parameters and of alarming proportions," it said.

Stating that urgent steps are required to be taken in the interest of customers of both operators, the company said it was "unfortunate that TRAI's intervention was required for Airtel to resume augmentation of POIs, which it ought to have done by itself in compliance with its license terms."

It said TRAI regulation does not provide for 90 days to adhere to QOS parameters. "TRAI in fact instructed the incumbent operators to urgently provide requisite interconnection capacities to maintain QoS parameters and not to make this subject to any contingencies or restrictions."

RJIL said Airtel has also insisted on certain unilateral deviations from the Interconnection Agreement between the parties with respect to installation of one-way E1s as against both-way E1s.

One-way E1s are typically installed between similar sized networks.

Despite the "anti-competitive behaviour", RJIL said it will continue to work with Airtel and all the other incumbent operators to resolve this issue at the earliest and ensure that Indian customers get best-in-class services.

"Furthermore, Airtel has also been blocking the mobile number portability (MNP) facility for its subscribers who wish to subscribe to Jio services on baseless and unsubstantiated grounds," the statement alleged. 

This, it said, is another example of disregard of licence terms and its obligations under the Telecommunication Mobile Number Portability Regulations, 2009 and TRAI directions.

"This is again an anti-competitive move aimed at stifling a new operator, denying the Indian customers the benefit of choice of service provider. This is against public interest and fair play," it said.

RJIL hoped that Airtel would enhance the PoI's sufficiently to meet its licence obligation of QoS with immediate effect and maintain these parameters on an ongoing basis.

"Airtel must also immediately make available MNP to all its subscribers opting to port to RJIL in accordance with the license terms and MNP regulations," the statement added.

On the issue of MNP, Airtel said it has already stated that it is processing all requests as per guidelines. "Airtel ports-in and ports-out thousands of customers every day from across operators, and the allegation of blocking 69 odd port out requests from Jio sounds rather flimsy."

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