The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has called the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio a back door operator to which Jio has slammed the telecom lobby group saying that the charge has already been rejected by the Supreme Court and making such accusations is contempt of court. New entrant Reliance Jio had written a letter on September 23 letter where it had sought an overhaul of rules and regulations of the COAI and alleged that the current norms were skewed in favor of incumbent operators, prompting the operators’ body charge the company of being a “back door operator” that acquired the license through a front entity. Also Read - Airtel Rs 79 plan vs JioPhone Rs 75 prepaid plan compared: Which offers better value?Also Read - Reliance JioFiber plans with free Voot Select subscription: Check plans, price, and other benefits
“The press statement of COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews is surreptitious, defamatory, and an act of contempt of the orders of the Supreme Court of India and devoid of any merit,” Reliance Jio said in a statement. Countering Mathews’ claim that issues raised by Jio were bilateral and have been addressed within the association, the company said COAI Director General himself had raised several bilateral issues in external forums in the last few months without ever discussing these within the association. All the forums within the COAI, of which Reliance Jio is also a member, are “controlled by the incumbent dominant operators owing to their disproportionate voting rights,” the statement said. Also Read - JioFiber broadband plans with free Netflix subscription: Check plans, price, data benefits, more
The Mukesh Ambani-run 4G entrant said it had also copied the notice to COAI and urged it to take appropriate action against Mathews, failing which it would pursue legal recourse with full vigor against the association that represents the Big 3 of Indian telecom Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. Last Sunday, Mathews had accused Jio of making a backdoor entry into the telecoms sector, countering the latter s allegations that COAI was biased in favor of Airtel, Vodafone and Idea and required a change in its functioning.
The COAI director general had said Jio was never an applicant for a UASL or UL license but had bought a broadband wireless access (permit) through a front entity, and then had it converted into a full-blown UASL license despite strong objection from certain quarters including the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General). The Unified Access Service License, or UASL, has since been replaced by the UL, or Unified License.
Jio said Mathews is fully aware that his allegations were part of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the apex court two years ago, which had been duly adjudicated upon and rejected by the Supreme Court. COAI s Mathews, however, appeared in no mood to apologize. Spurning Jio s charges, Mathews said the COAI categorically dismisses the Mukesh Ambani-run telco s allegations, which are without merit, bald, motivated, and intended to bring disrepute to the association.
The COAI, he said, is disappointed that Jio despite being a member, had taken internal association matters, that could have been settled within, into a public forum. He further asserted that COAI and its director general had always acted in full compliance with the constitution and bylaws of the association and always upheld and complied with the regulations and rules of the land.
In a letter, dated September 23, to COAI, Jio had demanded a comprehensive overhaul of COAI s rules, regulations and processes, which it alleged had been framed to favor the three incumbent dominant operators (IDOs) who collectively command 68 percent of the total votes in the association s executive council by virtue of revenue and market position.
In fact, Jio had suggested that a committee comprising three retired Supreme Court judges be set up to ensure COAI s governance code and processes were in line with democratic principles of reasonableness, fairness, accountability and transparency.
In a recent interview with ET, Ambani had called COAI s structure flawed and criticized its functioning, pledging to democratize it. Since voting rights correspond to the revenue of operators, COAI s views represent only those of dominant carriers, and Jio, with no revenue, doesn t have a say, he had said. Mathews, thereafter, had reportedly called Ambani s remarks absolutely incorrect and misleading, and asserted that the COAI was a fully democratic association that took into account the views of all its member operators.
Bharti Group Chairman Sunil Mittal had also dismissed Ambani s accusations in an interview to ET. He had said so much importance should not be given to a process followed in COAI , so long as it was factual and honest. He had added that it was not as though Airtel, Vodafone and Idea were a cozy club, as they competed with each other. ALSO READ: TRAI to hold a meeting with telecom operators to discuss Reliance Jio interconnect issues: RS Sharma
Nevertheless, Jio stuck to its position, reiterating that all forums within the COAI are controlled by IDOs owing to their disproportionate voting rights. To drive home its point, it said it was common knowledge that dual technology operators Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications had left COAI in the past because of such biases . It further said Jio could not be restrained from raising its fair concerns, especially when IDOs were colluding to use COAI s regulations against it to promote anti-competitive activities .