On Wednesday, Government approved a combined fine of Rs 30.5 billion ($ 442 million) to telecom operators Bharti, Airtel, Vodafone and Idea for not providing interconnection points to the Reliance Industries, telecom unit Jio when it began operations in 2016, reported Indian media.
In 2016, the Indian telecoms regulator recommended the fine against Bharti and the current Indian unit of the Vodafone Group and Idea Cellular, claiming the three denied points of interconnection to Jio, a move it termed as anti-consumer and aimed at stifling competition.
On Wednesday, the country’s Digital Communications Commission approved the recommendations of the telecoms regulator, Indian media reports, Aruna Sundarajan, chairman of the committee and senior official in India’s Department of Telecom.
Both Vodafone Idea and Bharti criticised the decision.
“This issue pertaining to points of interconnection has been examined by the DoT, various parliamentary and judicial authorities with no case for any default established,” Vodafone Idea, India’s biggest wireless carrier said in a statement, adding, it will “explore all options, including seeking legal recourse” to protect company interests.
The company was “extremely disappointed” and the decision would further burden the high stress in the telecom sector, said a spokesman for Bharti.
Bharti will approach the “appropriate forum” and has complete faith in the country’s judicial process, the company’s spokesman added.
Reliance Jio, built at a cost of more than $ 30 billion by Mukesh Ambani, offered free services for months after its launch. This forced its three rivals, Bharti, Vodafone and Idea, to cut prices, accept lower profits and trigger a wave of consolidation in the sector.