Reliance Jio rejects Airtel’s charge on predatory pricing of JioFiber’s live TV channels
Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio and Sunil Mittal-led Airtel have again engaged in the price war again. Reliance Jio has slammed Bharti Airtel for filing a complaint with the telecom regulator over live TV channels offered with JioFiber, saying the rival company’s sole grouse was the reasonable tariffs of JioFiber. Jio dubbed charges made by Airtel as a “deliberate malicious attempt to defame” RJIL’s consumer-friendly tariffs to protect “narrow interests”.
Jio in a letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said “Airtel should be warned against making such frivolous complaints in the future”. The offensive came after Bharti Airtel told regulator Trai that broadcasters are violating the downlinking policy by providing broadcast content to unregistered digital distribution platforms.
Airtel’s submission to the watchdog is seen as an apparent reference to Jio TV showing IPL 2023 matches. Jio referred to Trai’s letter dated March 31, 2023, seeking comments on Airtel’s complaint on alleged predatory offers of live TV channels with broadband plans by Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL).
“At the outset, we submit that this complaint is a deliberate malicious attempt by Bharti Airtel to defame RJIL’s consumer-friendly tariffs in order to protect its narrow interests,” Reliance Jio said in the letter dated April 6, 2023.
Jio rebutted the charges saying it is clear that all the unsubstantiated claims of predation, non-level playing field, and non-compliance with TTOs and NTO are just woven around this singular theme and “this complaint should be dismissed simply on the ground of being a frivolous attempt to protect its own interests“.
“A close reading of the complaint letter would clearly establish that Airtel’s sole grouse is that JioFiber is offering reasonable tariffs to customers,” said Jio’s letter rejecting the charges of Airtel. JioFiber Backup tariff is an earnest attempt by RJIL (Reliance Jio) to connect all consumers to fiber optics technology in order to deliver best-in-class connectivity services, it wrote.
“We further submit that the JioFiber Backup plan is a 10 Mbps FTTX plan at a monthly rental of Rs.198 (plus taxes). This plan is available only on 5 months advance rental at one go. Further, the subscribers have the option to add add-on packs of Rs.100 or Rs.200 per month provided by Jio Platforms Limited (JPL) in order to get access to up to 14 OTT apps along with Jio’s OTT apps provided by JPL,” Jio said.
So, it is evident that RJIL’s product offering is limited to connectivity services and it does not include subscriptions to OTT applications or any broadcasting services, it contended. With the subscription of add-on packs, JPL provides access to these apps through an OTT set-top box.
“JPL, as an aggregator, also provides a user interface in the form of another OTT app known as JioTV plus, which collates all the OTT channels/ content available to a subscriber under his JioFiber subscription and on other free video sharing apps like YouTube and makes the same available together,” it informed.
Customers can access these channels through JioTV Plus app, which opens the channel in the OTT app. These OTT apps include apps by major broadcasters in India like Disney+Hotstar, Zee5, Sony Liv, Voot Select, and Sun Nxt among others as well as digital feeds of certain TV channels.
According to Jio, all these broadcaster’s apps provide access to their live channels on their OTT apps through the Internet. By virtue of the customer’s subscription to OTT apps along with JioFiber services, they also get access to these channels on OTT apps as well “which is in line with current market practice even being followed by Airtel”.
A case in point is that Airtel also offers apps like Disney+Hotstar, Sony Liv, Lionsgate, HoiChoi, and others with its fiber plans, Jio argued. In respect of access to channels on OTT apps, Jio said that the provision of TV channels on OTT applications is a permissible practice.
“It is evident from the above detail that JPL offers access to TV channels only as an aggregator through OTT application and not otherwise as alleged by Airtel and therefore Airtel’s complaint has no basis,” Jio said. Jio said that Airtel has as much as admitted in its letter that the bundling of OTT applications with fiber/ broadband is common market practice.
“As stated earlier, Airtel also offers subscriptions to various OTT applications. Thus, the comparison of the same with DTH is irrelevant, Jio said. Trai and DoT, it noted, have opted not to regulate the OTT applications, therefore claims of predation and non-level playing field are irrelevant “as there cannot be a level playing field between regulated and non-regulated services”. Jio’s letter, which gives a point-by-point rebuttal to the concerns raised in Airtel’s complaint, concluded by saying “Airtel’s complaint should be summarily dismissed”.
[with PTI inputs]
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