India’s COAI claims Reliance Jio’s free ‘trial’ is illegal

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has claimed that new operator Reliance Jio Infocomm is providing a full-fledged mobile offering masquerading as a trial.

Reliance Jio is scheduled to launch commercial services later this month, and is currently offering a test phase under which users can access free voice and data services. So far 1.5 million customers have signed up to this.

However, COAI director general Rajan Mathews claims in a letter to the Indian Department of Telecom: “This is no test. This is the provisioning of full-blown and full-fledged services masquerading as tests, which bypass regulations and can potentially game policy features like the IUC (interconnection usage charge) regime, non-predatory pricing, fair competition etc.”

COAI represents major operators including the ‘big three’, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, but Reliance Jio is also a member of the body. The newcomer operator’s launch has long been expected to shake up the Indian mobile market.

Mathews’ letter notes that current licensing laws prohibit the free testing of voice and data services, stating: “In order to ensure compliance to licence conditions and the Trai regulations and guidelines, we request your urgent intervention in this matter and instruct the said licensee to stop such practices. Further, they should be instructed to immediately disconnect all such connections provided to [the] general public under the guise of test connections.”

If the DoT follows up on the letter’s requests, Reliance Jio’s long-delayed launch could suffer yet another setback.

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