Reliance Jio has alleged that Bharti Airtel is violating the Access Services Licence norms by locating the eSIM provisioning node for the Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular outside India. Jio in a complaint filed with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has demanded immediate closure of the service and that DoT take action against Airtel, penalising it. Airtel, on the other hand, called the complaint "frivolous". Notably, the latest issue emerges just after the Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular edition went on sale in India. The Cellular variant using an embedded SIM (eSIM) offers standalone telephony support and lets users make voice calls through their wrist using the same mobile number that is available on their iPhone.
"Airtel has not set up eSIM provisioning node within India and the node being used to provide Apple Watch Series 3 service is currently located out of India in gross violation of the licence terms," Jio wrote in the letter sent to DoT on May 11 and seen by Gadgets 360.
As per the government's norms, it is mandatory for operators to deploy their equipment in India to offer cellular service. The licence terms also restrict the transfer of any user information or their accounting information to any person or place outside India. However, as per Jio, Airtel has installed a critical network element outside India to serve its network on the Apple Watch Series 3.
"We submit that the very fact that Airtel has deliberately chosen to install a critical network element outside India for a service being offered under the Access Services License indicates its blatant disregard for the sanctity of the licence terms and conditions including important security conditions," Jio said in its letter to the DoT.
Refuting the allegation, Airtel in a statement stated that the DoT was duly notified about product features, network architecture, and a lawful interception prior to the launch of the Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular edition and considered the complaint as frivolous. "This is yet another frivolous complaint by a desperate operator, whose sole aim appears to have a monopoly over everything they do," an Airtel spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Gadgets 360.
"Bharti Airtel is a law-abiding and responsible operator. The DoT was duly notified prior to the launch of Apple watch including product features, network architecture and lawful interception and we have also requested them to carry out a demonstration of the same. All information relating to customers, network nodes etc. is hosted in a fully secure manner by Airtel India along with provision for lawful interception. We will be happy to share more details with the DoT as and when required," the spokesperson added.
Airtel and Jio announced their partnerships with Apple in separate statements on April 24 to confirm the arrival of the Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular edition in India. Both operators also started taking pre-orders for the new Apple Watch model starting May 4 and ultimately kicked off its sale on May 11. Rivalling Reliance Jio, Airtel brought a cashback worth Rs. 5,000 for purchasing the Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular edition via ICICI Credit EMI transactions. Airtel subscribers need to have MyPlan Postpaid or Infinity Postpaid plans to use the Cellular variant, while Jio is offering the latest experience for both its prepaid and postpaid subscribers.
The fight between Airtel and Reliance Jio isn't fresh. Both operators are aiming to expand their subscriber base in the country by competing against each other. Last month, the two telcos deployed their Massive MIMO (Multiple-Input Multiple-Output) pre-5G technologies to deliver high-speed data during IPL 2018. While Jio implemented its Massive MIMO model at Mumbai's Wankhede stadium and Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla stadium, Airtel revealed its plans to bring its technology to various IPL match venues in Jaipur, Bengaluru, Mohali, Indore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Mumbai after an initial launch at Wankhede stadium.