Amid an industry feud over call ringing time, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. has urged the telecom regulator to abstain from mandating a specific duration for calls to ring, and said the matter should be kept under forbearance as “there is no need for any regulatory intervention”.
Jio said if at all the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India wants to take a view on the issue, it should be in form of a “reference guideline and not in form of a mandated value”.
“In such case, the range of 20 seconds to 25 seconds may be prescribed as reference guideline,” Jio informed TRAI, which is in the process of finalising its views on the issue through a consultation paper.
Rival Bharti Airtel Ltd. which had charged Jio of arbitrarily shortening the ring time for outgoing calls from its network — has argued that low ringing time for calls directly impacts the customer experience, and asserted that standardising the value at both originating and terminating ends “is paramount at this stage”.
Airtel has recommended that the terminating exchange timer should be fixed at 45 seconds and the origination exchange timer at 75 seconds.
In its submission, Vodafone Idea has argued that the minimum ringing timer should be retained at 30 seconds, which, the company claimed is in tune with global practices.
Jio, meanwhile, has contended that in case TRAI still decides to fix a value for call alert timer, the same should be done only after a detailed study by a technical panel comprising experts from the telecom department and Telecom Engineering Centre.
The company lamented that the only time objection has been raised on the ringing duration of calls is against the current implementation by Jio, and alleged that this “is clearly a case of vested interests”.
“We have not faced any customer issues and even the alleged customer issues being faced by one operator remain unsubstantiated, the authority may validate such claims and not take the same on face value,” Jio said.
On the missed calls, Jio has told TRAI that it is “more of a victim here instead of being a perpetrator”.
In its comments on the TRAI consultation paper, the Mukesh Ambani-led company said that the considered regulatory position so far has been that such timers fall under the domain of “commercial freedom” accorded to telecom operators.
“Reliance Jio Infocomm submits that this policy should continue in the interest of light touch regulation and forbearance,” it said.
Jio noted that the operators in the past never felt compelled to disclose the timer to other players. Globally, too, this parameter is kept at the discretion of the service provider and many leading operators keep this minimal levels close to 20 seconds, some even 15 seconds.
The Ambani-led operator said that the optimum value of this timer is 20 seconds and argued that there is no logic of keeping these limits at the higher side as handheld devices are generally kept close to the users and most calls are being answered within 15 seconds.
Late last month, as the contentious interconnect usage charges issue came back on the regulator’s radar, the industry — polarised over the issue — had erupted into a war of words.
Airtel had accused Reliance Jio of “gaming” the system of paying for calls to rival network, and Jio had returned fire arguing that incumbents are charging high voice tariffs and manipulating the system to the detriment of their users.
A senior Airtel official recently alleged that “one large 4G-only operator” has arbitrarily slashed ringing time for outgoing calls to other networks.
This, Airtel had said, not only led to customer inconvenience (since the calls are cut-off midway before answering), but prompted a barrage of call backs to artificially convert outgoing calls to incoming on its network. Jio had hit back saying globally most operators have an average ringing time of only 15-20 seconds.
The call ringing time issue is an important one for telecom players. Typically, a telecom operator pays for connecting calls of its subscribers to the company on whose network a call terminates. Currently, an operator is required to pay 6 paise per minute as mobile call termination charge, called IUC.
The IUC was originally proposed to be made nil from Jan. 1, 2020. But TRAI is now reviewing the timeline, as part of a separate consultation exercise.
Earlier this week, telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea slashed ring time on outgoing calls from their network to 25 seconds to counter a similar move by Jio and plug losses amid a high voltage dispute, over the issue. This is an interim measure, and the final decision on the call ring time will be taken by TRAI soon.―Bloomberg Quint