Trai's Rs 3,050-crore penalty recommendation on Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular over interconnect (IUC) provision to Reliance Jio has not got a green signal from a high-powered committee of the telecom ministry, which has raised questions over the regulator's authority to raise such a financial penalty.
The matter is now expected to be taken up with the inter-ministerial telecom commission, which is the highest decision-making body on telecom matters, sources told TOI.
The committee of the department of telecom (DoT) failed to arrive at a conclusion on Trai's recommendations, especially as there were views that "Trai has gone far beyond its mandate" in recommending a penalty on the three telcos over the spat with Reliance Jio.
"There was a view by some of the members that Trai went beyond its powers in making the recommendations," one of the source said. "But as some members threw their weight behind the regulator's recommendations, the committee could not arrive at a final decision. Thus, Trai's recommendations could not get a clearance," a source said.
While Jio had blamed the call failures - running into crores on a daily basis - on the incumbent operators, the latter had said there was a massive asymmetry of traffic emanating from the new entrant as it was providing free calling services.
DoT had formed the committee to look into the matter in October 2016, and the body went through several representations and documents that various companies presented to support their argument. "It has been a very exhaustive process, and we have gone through detailed submissions by the various parties," the source said.
The telecom commission had earlier sought certain clarifications from Trai on the quantum of penalty it had recommended, and under which provisions were they sought to be slapped. Trai had defended the ground on which it sought the penalty, claiming that behaviour of incumbent telecom companies had disrupted the quality of services for Jio's customers.
Trai had claimed that Airtel, Vodafone and Idea moved with the "ulterior motive to stifle competition", which resulted in a massive depletion in service quality, causing inconvenience to Jio's subscribers, who failed to connect calls.