Airtel responds to Reliance Jio’s move to charge 6 paise per minute
Airtel on Wednesday responded to Reliance Jio's move to charge users 6 paise per minute on calls to rival network.
"One of our competitors has imposed a rate of 6 paise for all off net calls made to other operators to cover the termination charge of IUC (Interconnect Usage Charge). They have gone on to suggest that TRAI has re-opened this issue," Airtel said in a statement.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India last month floated a new consultation paper to review January, 2020 deadline for zero IUC charges. The regulator had slashed the IUC charges in 2017 from 14 paise to 6 paise per minute.
Watch: Reliance Jio to charge for calls to rival networks, Airtel responds
"The assumptions made by TRAI were to evaluate two factors: One was the adoption of VoLTE, which TRAI assumed will bring the cost down. Second, with the growth of smaller sized operators, symmetry of traffic would ensue. Both these have not materialized," Airtel added.
The operator said that India still has 400 million 2G customers who're paying less than ₹50 per month and cannot afford a 4G phone. It also stressed that there is still big amount of asymmetry of traffic.
"The telecom industry is in a state of deep financial stress since the last three years with several operators having gone bankrupt and thousands of jobs having being lost. The IUC is determined based on the cost per call. Given the massive 2G customer base in India the cost of the call at 6 paise is already significantly below the real cost of completing the call," said the operator.
Earlier, Reliance Jio announced that it will start charging its subscribers 6 paise per minute in view of the TRAI's IUC regime. This is the first time Reliance Jio is charging its subscribers for making voice calls which otherwise are available for free. The charges, however, aren't applicable on Jio-to-Jio calls or calls from apps like WhatsApp and FaceTime. The operator is also compensating users with special top-up vouchers that have additional calling minutes and data. Reliance Jio said that it had to pay nearly ₹13,000 to rival networks due to interconnect charges.