Airtel May Be Forced To Cough Up Rs. 650 Crore As Penalty For Routing ISD Calls As Local

The world of telecommunications is often wrought with expensive bearings. One such latest tussle is between State Run BSNL & private mobile service provider Bharti Airtel. The Government of India has approved a fine to the tune of Rs. 650 Crores (US$ 109 Million) to be levied on Airtel for falsifying actual call origin & masquerading ISD Calls as Local Calls. A telecom ministry official has revealed to the reporters, “The Minister has approved penalty of Rs 650 Crores on SLD (Subscriber Local Dialing) matter”.

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What’s the issue of discontent?

While the actual method of duping the state run BSNL of its share of the revenue for handling international origin calls is not crystal clear, the usual method is by routing ISD (International Subscriber Dialing) calls off within the country as local or STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialing) calls, allegedly by tampering with the CLI (Calling Line Identification).

In essence, the International Long Distance (ILD) Calls are masked to appear as local/STD Calls thereby the company needn’t pay BSNL the IUC (Interconnection Usage Charges) or the ADC (Access Deficit Charge). Apparently, Airtel managed to dupe BSNL for a period of 2003 – 2005. Hence, the committee appointed to investigate the matter has recommended to Kapil Sibal to enforce the penalty. Accordingly, the minister’s office may soon send a notice to the company.

Since the authority doesn’t have an exact idea of the violation, the fine of Rs. 650 Crores has been arrived by simply considering the total circles in which Airtel was active & levying the penalty as Rs. 50 Crores / Circle.

The telecom sector in India is one of the most intensely competitive segments. With multiple players & huge topography to cover, service companies find it extremely difficult to sustain operations. Not to mention, the expensive auctions & re-auctions burn a deep hole in the pocket. All these adverse conditions bear down heavily on the financial strengths of the companies.

But, do you think its right to resort to such techniques?

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