Rel Jio, COAI spar over voting norms

New Delhi: Reliance Jio today accused COAI of serving “vested interests” of incumbent operators and demanded an overhaul of voting rules, prompting the operators’ body to charge the Mukesh Ambani-led firm of being a “back door operator” that acquired licence through a front entity.

In a recent letter to COAI, Reliance Jio alleged that the association’s voting rules were “skewed” in favour of dominant operators – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea — and gave them “the absolute control to influence any or all of the decisions of COAI” given that the trio enjoyed 68 per cent of total votes.

Claiming that the COAI voting norms were in breach of Societies Registration Act and also the competition law, Jio demanded that a committee be appointed consisting of three retired judges of the Supreme Court to ensure all regulations fall in line with “fundamental democratic principles of reasonableness, fairness, accountability and transparency”.

Criticising the voting norms which are based on gross revenue of member companies, Jio said, “The IDOs (incumbent dominant operators) having a 60.84 per cent market share based on revenues enjoy a dominant position in the market and command seven votes each, totaling to 21 votes. Apart from the IDOs, there are four more core members having a combined total of 10 votes shared amongst them. The IDOs command 68 per cent of the total votes.”

Responding to the blistering attack, the COAI launched a point-by-point counter offensive where it said that Reliance Jio’s move to label the established and well performing operators as Incumbent Dominant Operators or IDOs was “slanderous” and “mischievous”.

“None of the half a dozen new operators who have entered in the last five years have ever accused the COAI or in fact labelled the leading operators as IDOs. Despite repeated and grave provocations from Reliance Jio, the COAI wishes to state that Reliance Jio which entered the sector as a Back Door Operator (BDO) was welcomed by the COAI as a full member,” the cellular operators’ body said in a statement.

The COAI further said the “BDO, Reliance Jio was never an applicant for a UASL (Unified access service licence) or UL (Unified licence) but bought a BWA (broadband wireless access) through a front entity and then had it converted to a full blown UASL license despite strong objection from certain quarters including the CAG.