Diwali may not be very happy for you this year if you are an Aircel or RCom subscriber, and have Airtel subscribers on your 'I-must-send-an-SMS-to' list. The Economic Times has shed light on a recent development, wherein Bharti Airtel has resorted to closing its network to incoming text messages from Aircel and Reliance Communications subscribers. 

According to Bharti Airtel executives, the decision came after Aircel and RCom began bombarding its network with “free spam messages”. Aircel and RCom reportedly have denied Airtel’s claims. Quoting an Airtel spokesperson, the report added, “They (Aircel and RCOM) are sending free SMS to our networks, which, in turn, is impacting the quality of service on our network and, therefore, the quality of service to our own customers.”

On the other hand, ET reported Aircel and RCom as levying allegations against Airtel saying it is “resorting to pressure tactics” with Diwali around the corner to “force them to pay more towards SMS termination charges.” Airtel has been accused of taking undue advantage of its dominant position.


Barred from sending SMSes to Aircel, RCom subscribers (Image Credit: Getty Images)

“The timing of this step on the eve of Diwali reflects Bharti's blatant disregard for the interests of millions of customers and is another instance of abuse of market position by Bharti,” an RCom spokesperson was quoted as saying.

The report went ahead to quote an Aircel spokesperson as saying that Airtel sought a bilateral interconnect agreement, following which a non-Airtel user would be charged 10 paisa per SMS. The spokesperson shared that Aircel did not agree with this, since it would raise the costs to the consumers considerably. 

The two companies are likely to move court this week. Reportedly, in November 2011, Airtel had asked Aircel to pay 10 paisa for every SMS terminating on the former's network. Airtel then aggregated a bill of roughly 25 crore from April to October 2011. 

“In January, Airtel sent a notice asking Aircel to pay the amount by the end of that month. Aircel approached the telecom tribunal (TDSAT) claiming that the dues claimed by Airtel were “arbitrary, illegal, wrong, unilateral and without any basis”. But, in September, the telecom tribunal ruled in favour of Airtel. Aircel has challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court,” the report added. 

Airtel, however, has denied the allegations of Aircel and Rcom, and an Airtel spokesperson shared that the “company followed a completely non-discriminatory policy with all operators on the matter of interconnection for SMS services”.

The Airtel spokesperson added, “However, two operators have chosen to adopt a discriminatory practice. They are sending free SMS to our networks, which, in turn, is impacting the quality of service on our network and, therefore, the quality of service to our own customers. We are fully compliant with the court orders and/or the agreements on SMS termination. We advise these operators to follow non-discriminatory SMS interconnection practices to ensure uninterrupted and high quality service to their customers.”

Interestingly, an executive close to Airtel confirmed that they had sent out “several reminders to all operators not honouring either the contract or court orders” on SMS termination rates. The report added further, “Court has upheld that SMS termination charges have to be paid. In spite of this, some operators are not paying. They want to use the network without paying and without signing a contract. This contradicts the court orders,” he said.”

If you're an Aircel or RCom subscriber and are unable to send SMSes to your Airtel contacts, you'd know why. Do let us know your views in the comments section below. 

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