Delaying the implementation of zero interconnection usage charges, or IUC, beyond January 2020 will hurt affordability of telecom services in a sector where users have benefited from free voice calls.
That’s according to Mahendra Nahata, director at Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., who on Friday said the ratio of incoming calls and outgoing calls are now on a par and traffic assymetry can, therefore, no longer be the reason to delay rollout of the Bill and Keep regime from Jan. 1, 2020.
Traffic symmetry indicates that a telecom operator will not have any outstanding balance of IUC against other networks.
Speaking at Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s open house on the IUC issue, Nahata said Airtel had expanded 4G network and Vodafone Idea too is talking about expanding their 4G network.
“We are not considering any profit or loss, but opposing it on the basis of principle. Criticising the decision of government or regulatory authorities from a distant location is beyond our understanding. Therefore, please take a decision after due diligence on all the points that we have raised,” he said.
Nahata questioned the data being shown by telecom operators and alleged that the subscriber traffic is being diverted to 2G and 3G network to show cost of voice is high.
Nahata said that if TRAI does not favour implementation of BAK regime from January 2020, then at least IUC currently at 6 paise should be brought down. “When you had implemented 6 paise charge, 4G traffic was one percent. Today that traffic is much higher so the costs must have come down,” he said.
A Vodafone Idea official said that consumers today have the option of moving to other networks through mobile number portability.
“Today customers have option of MNP and they can move to other network. It is wrong to say that any operator is holding back customers on 2G network,” the official said, demanding that IUC should continue.
Airtel said that IUC should not come down to zero and the BAK regime should be postponed by at least three years.
Bharti Airtel’s Chief Regulatory Officer Ravi Gandhi rejected allegations of data fudging, terming them as “misplaced” and said that people at times used the company’s SIM into second slot of mobile phone which generally supports 2G or 3G network.
He said there are 40 crore consumers are on 2G network and they use low-cost feature phones. Shutting down 2G network will mean depriving such consumers of telecom services.―Bloomberg Quint