Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal on Thursday said rival Reliance Jio’s free services offer “unfair competition.” Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) chairman Mukesh Ambani had launched Reliance Jio 4G services in September with free voice call, video call, free data and access to Jio apps till December 31, 2016. Recently the company extended the offer to March 31, 2017.
“When there is something free, it affects the rest of the players,” Mittal said at the launch of Airtel Payments Bank in New Delhi.
Airtel, which is India’s leading telecom operator, in December approached the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) against telecom regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for allowing Jio to extend its free services offer beyond December 31, 2016, which goes beyond the permitted duration of 90 days for running any promotional offer.
“When there is something free, it affects the rest of the players,” Sunil Mittal
Jio’s extended offer, which has been rechristened ‘Happy New Year Offer’ from ‘Welcome Offer’ comes with a slight tweak. The fair usage policy (FUP) limit has been restricted to 1GB per day, compared to the 4GB in the ‘Welcome Offer’.
Changing his earlier stance of being unaffected by Jio, Mittal said, “It is indeed a problem to compete with something that is free.”
Mittal had earlier told the Economic Times: “Margins could tighten possibly. At the moment, things are alright. But, we are very confident that Airtel’s CMS (customer market share) and RMS (revenue market share) should actually get a little bit of a boost.”
“We are a product of competition. AT&T, Hutchison, Telstra, Telenor, MTS, Etisalat were here and Vodafone is here. Airtel not only stayed on its course but kept on improving,” he had added.
Mittal also conceded that Airtel was forced to go to the TDSAT. The next hearing of the tribunal is on February 1.
While Jio has crossed a subscriber base of 52 million in just three months, Airtel’s subscriber base is around 300 milion.
Jio has been entangled in a battle with Airtel over Points of Interconnection, or PoIs — these allow calls between networks to be completed — alleging that it it is unable to complete up to 20 million calls a day because Airtel has not provided enough points.