Reliance Jio, India’s largest telecom operator by revenue, said it has decided to charge 6 paise per minute for calls made to other operators like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea due to TRAI’s decision to possibly continue with the six-paise-per-minute termination charge.
TRAI had, two years ago, announced that the ‘termination charge’, paid by one operator to another operator when customers make voice calls outside their network, will be abolished as of the coming January 1.
However, in a recent consultation paper, the telecom regulator said some of the legacy telecom operators are still using older, more expensive technologies, and it may not be possible to abolish the six-paise-per-minute charge without affecting their profitability.
Jio has already opposed the move, while other operators like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea welcome the move to relook at the abolition of termination charge from Jan 1.
Jio said due to this decision, it is forced to recover termination charges for non-Jio calls from now on.
It said it will recover six-paise-per-minute from its customers who make calls to non-Jio numbers as long as TRAI doesn’t abolish termination charges.
“..the consultation paper has created Regulatory uncertainty and therefore Jio has been compelled, most reluctantly and unavoidably, to recover this regulatory charge of 6 paise per minute for all off-net mobile voice calls so long as IUC charges exist,” it said in a press note today.
This new charge will not affect those who have already made their recharges. However, anyone who recharges their phone today or in the future will have to pay this charge.
The termination charge, also known as IUC charge, can be paid by recharging with special IUC vouchers that cost as little as Rs 10.
A voucher of Rs 10 will add 124 minutes of IUC call credit to a subscriber. Jio did not mention whether the recharges come with a specific validity, whether their validity will depend on that of the main pack, or whether they will have unlimited validity.
As a sweetener, Jio is throwing free data with these vouchers at the rate of 1 GB per Rs 10.
So, a 10-rupee IUC voucher will give free 4G data of 1 GB, while a 50 rupee recharge will give 5GB of data. The Rs 100 voucher, which comes with 1,362 minutes of inter-operator calls, comes with 10 GB of free data.
Jio said it has been forced to do this because it cannot continue to pay IUC charges out of its pocket beyond Dec 31 this year.
“Relying on the repeated stance of TRAI and the amendment already made to the regulations reducing the IUC to Zero, Jio continued to pay IUC from its own resources to Airtel and Vodafone-Idea etc. while offering free voice to its customers. So far, in the last three years Jio has paid nearly Rs.13,500 crore as NET IUC charges to the other operators,” it said.
Jio said other operators charge around Rs 1.50 per minute for voice calls. This has led to their customers making ‘missed calls’ to Jio customers so that Jio customers can call them back.
“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. Jio network receives 25 to 30 crore missed calls on a daily basis.
“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,” it said.
It also pointed out even without any IUC recharge, customers will continue to be able to make calls from their Jio number to any other Jio number or any landline number.
It said it is hopeful that TRAI will go ahead with the withdrawal of termination charges on Jan 1 as promised in 2017. At that point, said the operator, these vouchers will also be withdrawn.
“Jio again assures its 35 crore customers that the 6paise 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.
“We are hopeful that the IUC charge will be done away with as per the current regulation and that this temporary charge will come to an end by 31st December 2019 and consumers will not have to pay this charge thereafter. In the meanwhile, consumers can continue to enjoy the additional data entitlement in lieu of the IUC top-up vouchers so that there is no effective tariff increase till 31st December 2019,” the company said.Reliance Jio