As expected, Indian operators Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea (aka Vi) have made clear their feelings about Department of Telecommunication (DoT) penalties for allegedly denying Reliance Jio Infocomm adequate points of interconnection (PoIs) in 2016, and thereby affecting Jio’s quality of service.
The operators have challenged the demand in the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT). On Tuesday TDSAT said the next hearing would be on 26 October.
The penalties set in this PoI case are about $141.7 million from Airtel and about $269.9 million from Vodafone Idea (which at the time of the alleged PoI denial was two separate operators).
The penalties were originally to be paid within three weeks with a deadline of 21 October. However, the DoT has told the tribunal that it will not encash the bank guarantees of the accused operators until the next hearing on 26 October.
According to India’s Economic Times, counsels representing Airtel and Vodafone Idea alleged that these penalties were "absurd" and an "injustice".
Meanwhile Indian press reports are suggesting that Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla may be planning to put some of his own capital into Vodafone Idea.
It has also been suggested that the Vodafone Group may sell at least a part of its stake in tower firm Indus Towers and channel the proceeds into Vodafone Idea, although the Vodafone Group has not to date indicated any willingness to invest more money in Vodafone Idea.
Vodafone Group owns 44.39% of Vodafone Idea. Aditya Birla Group owns 27.66%. The Vodafone Group owns 28.12% in Indus Towers.
If true, these moves would no doubt be welcomed by Vodafone Idea. The government's relief package – announced in the middle of September – may also offer Vodafone Idea some breathing space, though the PoL controversy is clearly not what Vodafone Idea needs right now.