Reliance Jio mobile services are no longer completely free as the company in an unexpected decision announced recently that it would charge 6 paise/minute from its customers for outgoing calls to other network operators to recover the Interconnect Usage Charges (IUC). But in the immediate period, there may not be any possibility of a tariff hike as Jio awaits the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) final decision on the IUC in January 2020.
The IUC is basically the cost paid by one mobile telecom operator to another when its customers make outgoing mobile calls to the other operator’s customers. The company said that it has paid IUC to Airtel, Vodafone Idea and other operators while offering free voice calls to its customers. So far in the last three years, Reliance Jio has claimed to have paid nearly Rs 13,500 crore as NET IUC charges to the other operators. But in return, it has received none from them. Customers will have to pay IUC charges until the TRAI brings the fee down to zero, which is expected to take place on January 1, 2020. In its move to charge customers for the first time since its launch, Jio has put the enitre blame on incumbents and the TRAI. “While the incumbent operators reduced voice tariffs for their 4G customers, they continued to charge exorbitant tariffs to their 35-40 crore 2G customers, and in fact increased the tariffs for voice calls to around Rs 1.50/ minute,” said Jio.
“The price differential of free voice calls 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 added. The trigger for Jio’s decision is that the TRAI recently decided to seek views on delaying zero IUC as there were still millions of 2G subscribers who have not moved to VoLTE, so it seems unlikely that the zero-IUC regulation will come into effect any time soon.―Sentinel Assam