Airtel said the price of the call at 6 paise is significantly below the real cost of completing the call – responding on Reliance Jio’s decision to charge its mobile phone customers who make calls to other operators.
Reliance Jio has imposed a rate of 6 paise for all off net calls made to other operators to cover the termination charge of IUC (Interconnect Usage Charge). Reliance Jio offered free of cost voice services to its 300 million customers since September 2016.
Telecom regulator TRAI reduced the IUC charges from 14 paise to 6 paise on September 19, 2017 and proposed a move towards Bill and Keep (zero IUC) with effect from January 1, 2020.
TRAI also said it will keep a close watch on developments in the sector particularly with respect to the adoption of new technologies and their impact on termination cost. TRAI, if deems it necessary, may re visit the scheme of termination charge applicable on wireless to wireless calls after one year from the implementation of the regulation, TRAI said in 2017.
TRAI will evaluate two factors: First, the adoption of VoLTE, which TRAI assumed will bring the cost down. Second, with the growth of smaller sized operators, symmetry of traffic would ensue. Both these have not materialized.
There are still over 400 million 2G customers from the poorest sections of society living in rural areas paying less than Rs 50 per month and who can still not afford to buy a 4G device. Second, there still is significant asymmetry of traffic, Airtel said.
TRAI has also issued a consultation paper in September 2019 to reassess the time lines of the shift from 6 paise to a zero charge.
Airtel said this off net charge is to force IUC to be brought down despite the burden it puts in the receiving network of mobile operators. “We are grateful that this very timely consultation paper to reassess IUC has been issued by TRAI,” Airtel said.