More than 350 million customers of Reliance Jio will have to pay interconnect usage charge (IUC) of 6 paise per minute as Indias largest telecom company by number of subscribers plans to recover such charges from its customers.
Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani had promised free unlimited voice calls on the Jio network.
IUC is the cost paid by one mobile telecom operator to another when its customers make outgoing mobile calls to the other operators users. These calls between two different networks are known as mobile off-net calls. IUC charges are fixed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and currently stand at 6 paise per minute.
Reliance Jios decision to charge its customers comes after the TRAI floated a consultation paper to extend the deadline to make IUC charges zero with effect from January 1, 2020 citing traffic asymmetry.
In this background, 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, said Jio in a statement. So, for all recharges done by Jio customers starting today, calls made to other mobile operators will be charged at the prevailing IUC rate of 6 paise per minute through IUC top-up vouchers till such time TRAI moves to a zero termination charge regime.
Reliance Jio had, so far, continued to pay IUC from its own resources to Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea, while offering free voice calls to its customers. In the last three years, Jio had paid almost 13,500 crore as NET/ IUC charges to the other operators.
However, there will be no 6 paise per minute charge on Jio to Jio calls, all incoming calls, Jio to landline calls and calls made using WhatsApp or FaceTime and similar platforms.
Jio will provide additional data entitlement of equivalent value based on IUC top-up voucher consumption. This will ensure no increase in tariff for customers, said Jio, adding that the company assures its 35 crore customers that the 6 paise per minute charge on outgoing off-net mobile calls shall continue only till the time TRAI abolishes IUC.
In a statement, Bharti Airtel said, Clearly, this off-net charge being levied is to force IUC to be brought down despite the heavy burden it puts in the receiving network. It added that the telecom industry has been in a state of deep financial stress for 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 and 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, it said.