Regulator TRAI has imposed penalties on major telecom operators, including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular (now merged), for slipping on various service quality benchmarks for the March quarter, according to multiple sources. The fines cover various parameters and service areas, and all the operators are in the process of making the payment, sources told PTI.
About Rs 34 lakh fine has been imposed for March 2018 quarter on Reliance Jio, the aggressive player whose offerings since 2016 have shaken the market and triggered a bruising tariff war among operators. The penalty on the Mukesh Ambani-led firm is on account of Trai-defined service quality parameters, including Point of Interconnect congestion, accessibility of call centres or customer care, and percentage of calls answered by operators (voice to voice) in a set timeframe.
An e-mail sent to Reliance Jio seeking its response on the penalty did not elicit a response. Maintaining its watch on service quality in the sector, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had tightened the rules and asked players to abide by its new quality of service (QoS) benchmarks from October 1, 2017.
The latest assessment reflects how the operators have fared between January and March 2018 on Trai’s new service quality benchmarks. Bharti Airtel — which was the largest telecom operator in the country till the merger of Vodafone and Idea Cellular shuffled the pecking order late last month — has been fined to the tune of about Rs 11 lakh for the three months to March, as per sources. Its penalties are on account of norms relating to metering and billing (postpaid), accessibility of call centre and customer care, percentage of calls answered by operators within defined timeframe parameters. The fine imposed on Idea Cellular is about Rs 12.5 lakh for the March quarter. The penalties pertain to various circles on parametres like call drops, percentage of calls answered by operators within a set timeframe, and requests for closure of services complied within seven days.
In case of Vodafone, the March quarter penalties stood at only about Rs 4 lakh on issues like metering and billing (pre-paid), time taken to comply with request for termination or closure of service, and percentage of calls answered by operators within a timeframe. While Bharti Airtel declined to comment, Idea Cellular and Vodafone did not respond to e-mails queries on the issue. Trai Chairman R S Sharma had earlier told PTI that the regulator is in the final stage of imposing penalty on operators which have not met service quality norms for the March quarter, but had not given details. Trai has been maintaining that it does not wish to name specific operators or penalties slapped on them for not meeting the service quality criteria. Accordingly, it has never published this information either on its website or through a statement. As per the new quality of service benchmarks of Trai, now call drops are measured at mobile tower level instead of telecom circle level. Trai was of the view that average calculated at circle level may hide many issues.
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