Mukesh Ambani-led telecom major Reliance Jio has announced that it will start charging 6 paise per minute for all mobile voice calls made to other networks. The 6 paise is the current Interconnect Usage Charge (IUC) fixed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
“For all recharges done by Jio customers starting today, calls made to other mobile operators will be charged at the prevailing IUC rate of 6 paise per minute through IUC top-up vouchers till such time that TRAI moves to Zero termination charge regime. Presently, this date is 1st January 2020,” Jio said in a statement.
IUC is a cost paid by one mobile telecom operator to another when its customers make outgoing mobile calls to the other operator’s customers. IUC charges are fixed by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and are currently at 6 paise per minute.
In 2017, the IUC was reduced from 14 paise to 6 paise per minute, as per TRAI’s Telecommunication Interconnection Usage Charges (Thirteenth Amendment) Regulations, 2017. The same amendment also stated that IUC for all mobile calls will be made zero from January 1, 2020.
Jio says that on the confidence that IUC will be brought down to zero from 2020, Jio continued to pay IUC from its own resources to Airtel and Vodafone-Idea, while offering free voice to its customers.
So far, in the last three years Jio claims to have paid nearly Rs 13,500 crore as NET IUC charges to other operators. Jio claims that due to ‘exorbitant tariffs’ charged by other networks, Jio receives 25 to 30 crore missed calls on a daily basis from Airtel and Vodafone-Idea.
“This huge missed call phenomena converts the incoming calls to Jio into outgoing calls from Jio to other operators. The 25 to 30 crore missed calls per day should have resulted in 65 to 75 crore minutes of incoming traffic to Jio. Instead, the call back made by the Jio customers results in 65 to 75 crore minutes of outgoing traffic,” Jio said in a statement.
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. Jio claims that the consultation paper has created Regulatory uncertainty, thus compelling Jio to recover the regulatory charge of 6 paise per minute from customers.
For all recharges done by Jio customers starting Wednesday, calls made to other mobile operators will be charged at the prevailing IUC rate of 6 paise per minute through IUC top-up vouchers till TRAI moves to Zero termination charge regime.
However, Jio is looking to offset this additional cost to customers by providing additional data entitlement of equivalent value based on IUC top-up voucher consumption. For example, for a recharge of Rs 10, a Jio customer will get 124 IUC minutes and 1GB of free data entitlement.
Post-paid customers will be billed at 6 paise per minute for off-net outgoing calls with increase in free data entitlement in the same manner.
However, Jio-to-Jio calls, incoming calls, Jio to landline calls and calls made through online apps such as WhatsApp of FaceTime will continue to be free.
“Jio again assures its 35 crore customers that the 6 paise per minute charge on outgoing off-net mobile calls shall continue only till the time TRAI abolishes IUC, in line with its present regulation. We will share all data with TRAI to convince that zero IUC regime is in the best interest of consumers and how the huge number of missed calls is creating the wrong perception of asymmetric traffic,” it said.