Published: Thu, October 10, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Jio's no more free, Airtel & Vodafone-Idea to make a call

Jio's no more free, Airtel & Vodafone-Idea to make a call

Calls from Jio to Jio, to landlines and those made over apps such as WhatsApp will remain free. IUC charges are paid by one telecom operator to another when its customers make an outgoing call to the other operator's network. These calls between two networks are called mobile offnet calls.

In 2017, Trai cut the interconnect usage charge (IUC) to 6 paise per minute from 14 paise and said this regime would end by January 2020.

"Competition will follow suit with tariff hikes for their bundled plan subscribers, which should result in an ARPU increase of 7 rupee and 4 rupees for Bharti and Vodafone, respectively.Jio, on the other hand, will witness an ARPU increase of 17 rupees following the move". However, after the implementation of the Interconnect Usage Charge (IUC) fixed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the lines between Jio and every other network have started to blur.

Forced by regulatory uncertainty over a review of sunset clause for call termination charges, Reliance Jio on Wednesday announced it will charge customers 6 paise per minute for voice calls made to rival phone networks but will compensate them by giving free data of equal value.

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"The price differential of free voice on Jio network and exorbitantly high tariffs on 2G networks causes the 35-40 crore 2G customers of Airtel and Vodafone-Idea to give missed calls to Jio customers". In the last three years, Jio paid nearly 135 billion rupees ($1.9 billion) as interconnect charges to the other operators.

The possible change of timeline for introducing zero IUC, Jio said had led to the uncertainty of IUC phase-out deadline and it can't continue to bear Rs 13,500 crore losses on account of IUC by offering free voice calls to rivals' network from its network. It added that the telecom industry has been in a state of "deep financial stress" for the last three years with several operators having gone bankrupt and thousands of jobs having being lost. Two years ago, the sector regulator, had brought it down from 14 paise per minute to 6 paise per minute and made a decision to scrap the charge from January 2020. This came as a shock to all Jio subscribers because Mukesh Ambani, since its launch of Jio, has maintained that voice calls will always be free.

"Dear customer, if you have recharged on or before 9th October, you can continue enjoying free call benefits (even to non-Jio numbers), until your plan expires", Reliance Jio said.

Citing such traffic asymmetry as the only ground in the recently floated consultation paper, TRAI has reopened the closed chapter on IUC, which has already been made zero with effect from 1st January 2020 by amendment to IUC Regulations. "They also charge a minimum of Rs 500 / GB for data from their 2G customers". "Jio network receives 25 to 30 crore missed calls on a daily basis".

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