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FULL TIMELINE – Reliance Jio vs Bharti Airtel interconnect dispute

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The following is an updated list of statements on the ongoing tussle between Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel on the interconnection issue.

The two issues statements regularly, and the oldest are given at the bottom, with the latest statements on top. The list is updated as and when new statements are issued by either of the companies.

At the core of the dispute is call failures experienced by millions of Reliance Jio subscribers when they try to call numbers belonging to subscribers of three networks – Idea Cellular, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone.

Sep 18, Reliance Jio

The statements from Airtel are misleading and unfortunate in the context of the severe Quality of Service issues being faced by the Indian customers. While there are over two crore call failures every day between the two networks, there are no incidents of call failures within the Jio network. We encourage all customers to make Jio to Jio calls to experience HD quality voice services without any disruptions whatsoever. We also invite independent third parties such as TERM (DOT) to inspect and confirm that there are zero call failures on Jio network. Infact Jio customers should encourage the receiving party to switch to the Jio network at the earliest so that they do not suffer due to such anti-competitive practices being followed by the incumbent operators.

Jio, being the aggrieved party as everyone is well aware, is doing its best to work with all the other operators to resolve this issue at the earliest. There is no question of any delay, not even of a few hours, in taking any steps at Jio’s end.

On MNP, there is no right that any operator has to block MNP requests. Many of the customers have already been denied this facility without cause. We speak on behalf of customers when requesting that such porting requests should be honoured. It cannot be coincidental that all requests made for MNP to port to Jio network have been rejected by Airtel on unsubstantiated grounds and not even one MNP request has been approved, when Airtel claims that it ports-out thousands of customers every day across operators. It clearly establishes that this is being done deliberately when requests come to port to Jio network.

Sep 18, Bharti Airtel

Bharti Airtel (“Airtel”) categorically denies the rhetorical statements made by Reliance Jio (“Jio”) with regard to the release of additional PoIs from Airtel to Jio and MNP requests.

Following the bilateral discussions on September 13, 2016, Airtel agreed to release the additional PoIs to Jio on the same day itself and raised the demand notes on September 14, 2016. With the latest augmentation, the total number of PoIs provided will become three times the present number of PoIs. This capacity will be sufficient to serve over 15 million customers, which is much more than their present subscriber base and their demand for 10 million projected customers. Airtel has ensured that there are no capacity constraints from its end. In fact, Airtel has been providing PoIs to Jio, well ahead of the commencement of its commercial operations.

The additional PoIs now need to be physically connected and tested by both parties. We have already requested Jio’s cooperation in this regard. Airtel’s network teams across circles are ready and waiting for Jio to commence the testing.

However, it is Jio that seems to be dilly-dallying on the issue and not cooperating deliberately. It appears that the constant rhetoric may be a ploy by Jio to cover up some technical issues in their own network, which is causing call failures, by constantly blaming other operators. In addition, call drops or the lack of VoLTE stabilization should not be hidden behind the issue of POIs, which are being augmented at regular and quick intervals.

On the issue of MNP, Airtel has already stated that it is processing all requests as per guidelines. Airtel ports-in and ports-out thousands of customers every day from across operators, and the allegation of blocking 69 odd port out requests from Jio sounds rather flimsy.

Sep 18, Reliance Jio

Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (“RJIL”) welcomes the decision of Bharti Airtel Limited (“Airtel”) of providing more points of interconnection (“POI”) to it, as was communicated in the bilateral discussions between the two companies. However, the quantum of POIs proposed to be released by Airtel is substantially less than the requirement estimated based on transparent workings shared with Airtel. Based on the current traffic flow between the two networks, the proposed augmentation by Airtel would still only suffice for less than one-fourth of the required interconnection capacity.

RJIL has been consistently highlighting the urgency of the requirement and impact on Quality of Service (“QoS”). More than two crore calls are failing everyday between the two networks, which is far in excess of QoS parameters and of alarming proportions. Urgent steps are required to be taken in the interest of customers of both operators. It is unfortunate that TRAI’s intervention was required for Airtel to resume augmentation of POIs, which it ought to have done by itself in compliance with its license terms. TRAI regulation does not provide for 90 days to adhere to QOS parameters. TRAI in fact instructed the incumbent operators to urgently provide requisite interconnection capacities to maintain QoS parameters and not to make this subject to any contingencies or restrictions.

Airtel has also insisted on certain unilateral deviations from the Interconnection Agreement between the parties with respect to installation of one-way E1s as against both-way E1s. One-way E1s are typically installed between similar sized networks. It is apparent that Airtel continues to abuse its market dominance by imposing onerous conditions which will imminently hinder RJIL’s ability to efficiently utilize the additional E1s. It appears that the QoS will continue to suffer and Indian customers will be denied the benefits of superior and free voice services as a result of such anti-competitive behaviour.

Inspite of above, RJIL shall continue to work with Airtel and all the other incumbent operators to resolve this issue at the earliest and ensure that Indian customers get best-in-class services.

Furthermore, Airtel has also been blocking the mobile number portability (“MNP”) facility for its subscribers who wish to subscribe to Jio services on baseless and unsubstantiated grounds. This is another example of disregard of license terms and its obligations under the Telecommunication Mobile Number Portability Regulations, 2009 (“MNP Regulations”) and TRAI directions. This is again an anti-competitive move aimed at stifling a new operator, denying the Indian customers the benefit of choice of service provider. This is against public interest and fair play.

RJIL hopes that Airtel will enhance the PoI’s sufficiently to meet its license obligation of QoS with immediate effect and maintain these parameters on an ongoing basis. Airtel must also immediately make available MNP to all its subscribers opting to port to RJIL in accordance with the license terms and MNP regulations.

Sep 17, Bharti Airtel

Following the bilateral discussions between Bharti Airtel (“Airtel”) and Reliance Jio (“Jio”) on September 13, 2016, Airtel had committed to providing additional PoIs to Jio.

With the latest augmentation, the total number of PoIs provided will become three times the present number of PoIs. This capacity will be sufficient to serve over 15 million customers, which is much more than Jio’s total subscriber base and Airtel has ensured that there are no capacity constraints from its end. In fact, Airtel has been providing PoIs to Jio, well ahead of the commencement of its commercial operations.

Airtel released the demand notes for the additional PoIs on September 14, 2016 itself. The payment against the demand notes was received in parts by Airtel on September 15, 2016 and September 16, 2016. As per the bilateral agreement, Airtel and Jio will now have to jointly undertake the physical connection and testing of the PoIs. Consequent to successful testing of the PoIs, these will be opened for traffic.

While the interconnect agreement provides for a commissioning period of 90 days from the day Reliance Jio makes the payment, Airtel will work towards releasing the PoIs well ahead of the contractual obligation. We hope Jio will extend its full cooperation to ensure timely testing and commissioning of the POIs.

Airtel is a responsible organization committed to complying with the regulations and the Interconnect Agreements in letter and spirit and will continue to be so.

Sep 13, Reliance Jio

Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (“RJIL”) welcomes the decision of Bharti Airtel Limited (“Airtel”) of providing more points of interconnection to it, as indicated in Airtel’s press statement issued today.

RJIL has been writing regularly to Airtel and other incumbent operators regarding its requirement for interconnection capacity over the last few months. Necessary details have been provided to Airtel from time to time, highlighting the urgency of the requirement and the impact on Quality of Service parameters. However, no action was taken for the last several weeks, resulting in non-compliance of TRAI regulation on quality of service which mandates that POI congestion should not affect more than 1 call in every 200 calls made.

The situation has deteriorated significantly in the last few weeks, with over 75 calls failing out of every 100 call attempts. In last 10 days alone, over 22 crore calls have failed on the Airtel network, while 52 crore calls have failed cumulatively on the networks of the three incumbent operators viz. Airtel, Vodafone India Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd. While RJIL has rolled out a state-of-the-art network, the benefits of superior voice technology have been denied to Indian customers due to the POI congestion. Indian customers have not been able to enjoy RJIL’s free voice offer as a result of such anti-competitive behaviour of incumbent operators.

RJIL has been raising the issue of insufficient POIs as anti-competitive aimed at hindering the entry of a new operator. Such hurdles result in poor experience for RJIL customers who are trying to make calls to incumbent operators’ networks. We have repeatedly appealed to the incumbent operators to create a fair and reciprocal framework of coopetition that is good for India and good for Indian customers.

On the unsubstantiated apprehension regarding asymmetric voice traffic raised by Airtel, RJIL wishes to clarify that the voice traffic on its network is in line with industry trends and as expected for any new operator. When a new operator begins its operations, its customer base is understandably low and a large proportion of these are new numbers that are not yet in the address book with whom they communicate. Therefore in the early days of operations of any new operator, there are more outgoing calls than incoming calls. Overtime, as the customer base grows, this asymmetry reduces and the traffic becomes symmetric.

RJIL’s outgoing traffic is less than 2 calls per customer per hour even during peak traffic period, which requires only a reasonable number of POIs. These calls are not to one operator but distributed over all the operators. Incumbent operators are describing such a modest call rate as a Tsunami of traffic from RJIL.

Moreover, asymmetry of traffic has absolutely nothing to do with the number of POIs required, which is based on the total traffic in both directions and not just in one direction. The equipment required for POI are two-way trunks, which means that the same equipment is used for both directions. No additional equipment is needed for handling the calls coming from RJIL to the other operator. It is therefore in customer interest to have adequate interconnection capacity irrespective of direction of traffic.

RJIL hopes that Airtel as well as other incumbent operators will enhance the PoI’s sufficient to meet their license obligation of QoS with immediate effect and maintain these parameters on an ongoing basis.

Sep 13, Bharti Airtel

Bharti Airtel (“Airtel”), India’s largest telecommunications services provider, today said that following its bilateral discussions with Reliance Jio (“Jio”), it will provide additional PoIs to Jio. Airtel had extended an invitation to Jio to discuss its requirement of additional PoI.

Airtel is a responsible organization committed to complying with the regulations and the Interconnect Agreements in letter and spirit and will continue to be so.

Airtel has been providing PoIs to Ji afpdelhi@afp.com o, well ahead of the commencement of its commercial operations. With the latest augmentation, the total number of PoIs will become 3 times the present number of PoIs. Based on the current traffic pattern with all other operators, this capacity is sufficient to serve over 15 million customers, which is significantly higher than Jio’s existing customer base.

Having agreed to release the PoIs, Airtel said it would also need to take cognizance of the massive asymmetry in the volume of traffic between the two networks and ensure that the quality of service for Airtel customers is not impacted.

Airtel expressed hope that the TRAI will look into the issue of asymmetric traffic on an urgent basis and ensure that massive volumes of free calls terminating on Airtel’s network do not adversely impact its network.

Sep 9 – Bharti Airtel

As a responsible company, Bharti Airtel (“Airtel”) has always provided Points of Interconnect (PoI) to other operators and is fully compliant with all regulatory guidelines and licence conditions. None of the new operators, who have launched services in the last few years, have faced any PoI related issues with Airtel.

We are grateful to the TRAI for enabling a constructive dialogue today on the matter of providing PoIs to Reliance Jio and appreciating all the issues on the table. We would request the TRAI to also engage on the subject of a fair IUC regime and ensure that the practice of pricing is in compliance with the 30th Amendment of the Telecom Tariff Order dated January 16, 2004, which envisages tariffs to be IUC compliant, non-predatory and non-discriminatory.

Following the commercial charging of services by Reliance Jio, which is expected by Jan 1, 2017, the traffic will inevitably get to a more balanced level and PoIs will be less of an issue.
In the interim, we continue with our efforts to augment the hundreds of PoIs already given to Reliance Jio, as per the bilateral agreement, so that customers are not inconvenienced.

We urge the TRAI to find a way to curb the massive asymmetric traffic to ensure that receiving networks are not abused by tsunami of free traffic. In this regard, IUC is an effective tool in the hands of TRAI, which we hope they will use judiciously.

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