Telecom regulator TRAI today termed as “baseless” the COAI’s allegations that its orders appeared to be favoring one operator, and cautioned the industry body against making unsubstantiated charges.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Secretary S K Gupta asserted that the regulator functioned in a “transparent manner” and said that Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had “got into the habit of making allegations”.
“There is no substance in the allegations that COAI has made. They are baseless,” Gupta told PTI.
TRAI’s orders or regulations are preceded by detailed consultation papers and open house discussions with stakeholders, he said.
Other details and nuances pertaining to various decisions are contained in the explanatory memorandum that accompanies TRAI orders, he added.
“It has become COAI’s habit to make allegations…They have made similar allegation against TRAI in the past also, and challenged TRAI order which they lost recently…They should refrain from making such statements,” Gupta said.
Meanwhile, industry body COAI today said its members are evaluating legal options and may also approach the Department of Telecom and the Prime Minister’s Office on their grievances against the regulator’s decision on predatory pricing.
It has alleged that orders by TRAI have put all but one operator at a huge disadvantage and that its regulations had distorted the market.
COAI has also alleged that TRAI’s orders appeared “to be strengthening the ambitions of one particular operator with deep pockets and monopolistic designs at the expense of other operators” although it did not name Reliance Jio which has hit the incumbent operators hard by its aggressive pricing of mobile services, especially data tariffs.
COAI Director General Rajan Mathews today said its member operators will take a decision in a week or two on the future course of action after evaluating various options.
“The operators will be in a position to decide on legal and other options in a week or two,” Mathews said.
In a statement issued yesterday, COAI alleged that over the past 12-18 months, “regulation after regulation put out by TRAI has ended up in distorting the competitive landscape in favour of one operator, while putting all other operators at a serious disadvantage”.
The association said that majority of its members agreed with the assessment of TRAI’s regulations, except Reliance Jio which had a divergent view on the matter.
Last week, TRAI said it will impose financial disincentive of up to Rs 50 lakh per circle on operators if their service rates are found to be predatory in nature.
As per TRAI, a tariff will be considered predatory if in a “relevant market”, a telecom operator with over 30 per cent market share offers services at a price which is below the average “variable cost” to reduce competition or eliminate the competitors.
TRAI’s new rules came against the backdrop of past allegations by incumbent players like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular that newcomer Reliance Jio is offering predatory pricing.