Bringing much relief to Airtel and Aircel users in the country, a Hindu Business Line report confirms that the SMS service between the networks has resumed. Those, quite unaware about the situation should know that around Diwali this year, Bharti Airtel resorted to closing its network to incoming text messages from Aircel and Reliance Communications subscribers. 

Aircel reportedly, informed its subscribers about resuming the SMS communication with Airtel yesterday. 


Back to SMSing (Image credit: Getty Images)

According to Bharti Airtel executives, the decision came after Aircel and RCom began bombarding its network with “free spam messages”. Aircel and RCom reportedly denied Airtel’s claims. Earlier reports quoted an Airtel spokesperson as saying, “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.” A report by The Economic Times, though 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 had been accused of taking undue advantage of its dominant position.

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 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 at the time.

Reportedly, 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”.

Recently, Aircel was 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 SMSess 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. 

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