An apex telecom tribunal on Friday granted interim relief to Vodafone Idea Ltd, allowing the telco to continue signing up new customers under its premium plan RedX. Vodafone Idea had approached the tribunal after the telecom regulator put on hold its plan offering better quality services for customers in higher tariff brackets.
The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) allowed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to continue investigating if the telco violated service norms, observing it is not necessary to put the plan on hold while the probe was on. Shares of Vodafone Idea jumped 12.8% on the BSE following the order, while the benchmark Sensex index closed 1.5% higher.
The move comes as a breather for Bharti Airtel Ltd as well, which last week launched its Platinum plan with a similar premium offer for postpaid users. Trai on July 11 put on hold both schemes that promise higher speeds for postpaid users in costlier plans. The regulator suspects that any such offer for some customers could reduce speeds for others since the wireless network per Base Transceiver Station (BTS) is fixed, and depends on the installed capacity of the BTS.
According to the TDSAT order, Vodafone Idea alleged that Trai’s decision was “only to help the cause of Reliance Jio” and that the Mukesh Ambani-led company was not a necessary or even a proper party to the case. However, the tribunal has allowed Jio to be a party. Jio had pleaded that it will be directly impacted by the result of the case.
The tribunal asked Trai to file a detailed reply in two weeks if it wants to add to its short reply. Jio was also asked to reply in two weeks. Replying to Vodafone Idea’s appeal, Trai said the RedX plan was not transparent, adding the telco attempted to “mask the information” about the scheme, instead of informing authorities about making “a paradigm change in the way mobile data is offered”. Trai also denied what it called “vague allegations” by Vodafone Idea that it evaluated the RedX plan after a rival complained.