The rollout of the nation’s biggest 4G broadband network, Reliance Jio, has forged a hardcore fight between the company, which is controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, and all other telecoms in India.
Reliance Jio has not yet officially launched. But carriers like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone that already offer 4G or fourth-generation mobile services say that the Ambani telecom is ripping them off by pretending to be in testing phase while offering users free data and calling.
Essentially, the other carriers argue, Reliance Jio is using 4G airwaves free of cost, claiming that it is in “pre-launch” mode, and other telecoms are losing out, along with the government, on revenue they are entitled to.
“In a highly competitive and charged environment, one should not be surprised at a few elbows flying around when one is trying to position oneself,” said Rajan S Mathew, who heads the association, to NDTV. But he added, “There are genuine issues about testing and commercial operations.”
Reliance has countered by accusing the association of functioning as “a mouthpiece for incumbent dominant operators” and has threatened to take the agency to court.
The hostility between Reliance and its competitors began two months ago when it accused them of not providing enough interconnect ports for seamless connectivity – Reliance Jio users found it difficult to connect to other networks.
This, Reliance argued, was a form of cartelization designed to punish its users.
Airtel, Vodafone and Idea among others denied the accusation and said Reliance was offering full-blown services while using their airwaves under the guise of testing its signal strength.
The government has not commented on the war but sources in the Telecom Ministry told NDTV that it wouldn’t take sides and expects the regulator – Telecom Regulatory Authority of India or TRAI – to settle the dispute.
However, the fight is likely to escalate next month when all carriers will compete in India’s largest-ever auction of spectrum.