Aircel has been directed by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to pay Vodafone an SMS termination fee of five paisa per SMS till the TDSAT gives its final word on the matter. Vodafone had earlier sought a termination fee of 10 paisa per SMS from Aircel. In the meanwhile, Vodafone has been told to restore the interconnection of SMSs generated on Aircel's network. Noting that in the event SMS services between the two operators are disconnected, consumers would suffer, a single member-bench of PK Rastogi arrived at the interim order. A final hearing is awaited for January 10.
Vodafone directed to restore interconnection of SMSes on Aircel's network (Image Credit: Getty Images)
Quoting the TDSAT, a Times of India report adds, “There is a need to examine whether the rates of termination charges demanded by the respondent (Vodafone) are in accordance with the regulation … and whether such charges are transparent, reciprocal and nondiscriminatory.” Interestingly, the tribunal has asked Vodafone to reply to Aircel's plea within three weeks, while granting Aircel two weeks to file the rejoinder.
Only last month, Vodafone asked Aircel to cough up Rs 40 crore, as SMS termination fee plus applicable tax from April 2011 to September 2012. Aircel opposed this. Further, Vodafone gave Aircel time until November 9, 2012 to pay the amount.
Reports add, “It was opposed by Aircel contending that arrangement between them for SMS services was on “bill and keep basis” and Vodafone had unilaterally proposed charging 10 paise SMS termination, which was “arbitrary and illogical”.”
Earlier this month, there were reports about Bharti Airtel 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.
“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 quoted 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.