Why Airtel Avoided Jio’s ‘Server In India’ Question?

Though Bharti Airtel has refuted all allegations leveled by Jio pertaining to the Apple Watch services, the Sunil Mittal-led firm has slyly avoided the key question – whether it has the eSIM provisioning node in India or not.

Reliance Jio, in a letter to DoT, had claimed that Bharti Airtel has not set up the eSIM provisioning node, required to offer Apple Watch Series 3 service, in India, and it is a violation of the UASL license norms.

“We understand that Airtel has not set-up the above referred 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 to the license terms,” Jio wrote in the letter.

A copy of the letter has been reviewed by TeleAnalysis.

Airtel, however, said the allegations are frivolous.

“This is yet another frivolous complaint by a desperate operator, whose sole aim appears to have a monopoly over everything that they do. 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,” Airtel said in a statement.

On the key question, whether the node/server is India or not, Airtel was not straightforward in its answer.

“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,” it said.

It can be noticed that Airtel has avoided answering the key question asked – ‘if the node is in India or not’. While they maintained ‘All information relating to customers, network nodes etc. is hosted in a fully secure manner by Airtel India’, the operator chose not to answer the question directly. Neither it has refuted the claim by saying the node is located in India.

By the UASL conditions, ‘all equipment pertaining to provision of access services should necessarily be deployed inside the territorial jurisdiction of Union of India’.

We asked Airtel to clarify this. An email query to Airtel has not been responded to by press time.

“From Airtel’s statement, it can be said there is something more than what meets the eye,” said a regulatory officer at the DoT wished not to be identified. “It seems they avoided the question,” he added.

Another expert who works in the regulatory affairs of one of the largest technology firms and works closely with the government functionaries had a similar view.

“They (Airtel) ccould have easily said the server/node is in India and its a baseless allegation,” he suggests. “Instead of addressing the main issue, their response seems to be a personal attack.”

Jio, in its letter claimed that because the eSIM node contains sensitive user information, having it outside India also violates the UASL security conditions.

“Airtel hass 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 license terms and conditions including important security conditions,” the Jio letter further adds.

Not only that, Jio has also demanded DoT that ‘strictest penalties’ and ‘severe action’ should be taken against Bharti Airtel.

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