Delaying zero IUC regime will hurt affordability of telecom services: Jio

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Reliance Jio on Friday said that delaying the implementation of zero call connect charges beyond January 2020 will hurt affordability of telecom services in a sector where users have benefited from free voice calls.

Reliance Jio Director Mahendra Nahata said that the ratio of incoming and outgoing call is now at par with each other and traffic asymmetry can, therefore, no longer be the reason to delay implementation of Bill and Keep (BAK) regime (that is zero mobile termination charge from January 1, 2020).

Traffic symmetry indicates that telecom operator will not have any outstanding balance of interconnect usage charges (IUC) against other networks.

Speaking at Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (Trai) open house on 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 data being shown by telecom operators and alleged that the subscriber traffic is being diverted to 2G, 3G network to show cost of voice is high.

Nahata said that in case Trai does not favour implementation of BAK regime from January 2020 then at least interconnect usage charges currently at 6 paise should be brought down.

"When you had implemented 6 paise charge, 4G traffic was one per cent. 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 (MNP).

"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 the mobile call termination charges should continue.

Airtel said that IUC should not come down to zero and the BAK regime should be postponed by at least three years.

Meanwhile, 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.

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