RJio to charge 6p/min for calls to rival networks

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on October 09, 2019

Blames the move on regulatory uncertainty over Interconnect Usage Charge

Reliance Jio has decided to withdraw its free voice call offer. It will now charge its customers 6 paise a minute to make calls to subscribers of other mobile operators.

The operator was offering all voice calls for free until now.

While calls within the RJio network and outgoing calls to landline phones will continue to be free, those made to users of other mobile operators, including Airtel and Vodafone Idea, will now be charged.

To soften the impact on its users, RJio is offering free data of 1GB to 10 GB bundled with new top-up vouchers for making voice calls to other mobile networks, valued between ₹10 and ₹100.

Reliance Jio said it has been forced to start charging its customers for voice calls due to the regulatory uncertainty over the continuance of Interconnect Usage Charge (IUC). Until now, it was paying this fee to other players from its pocket instead of charging users, it said. In the past three years, RJio has paid nearly ₹13,500 crore as net IUC charges to the other operators.

The operator said it had decided to offer free voice calls after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), in 2017, laid a roadmap to bring down IUC charges to zero by January 2020. However, recently, the regulator issued a consultation paper seeking to extend the deadline beyond 2020. RJio said it cannot continue to subsidise these charges and is being forced to pass it on to the consumers.

Reacting to RJio’s decision, an Airtel spokesperson said that TRAI had, in 2017, clearly stated that there would be a review in 2019, and that the new consultation paper was, therefore, not the surprise that RJio claimed it was. RJio had declared free voice calls when the IUC was 14 paise; it has since been brought down to 6 paise.

Blame game

IUC is a fee paid by the operators on whose network the call originates to the operators on whose network the call terminates. Incumbent operators, including Airtel and RJio, are accusing each other of gaming the system to ensure higher incoming-to-outgoing ratio so that the net payout goes in their favour.

RJio claims that after the TRAI order in 2017, the incumbent operators reduced the voice tariffs for their 4G customers, but they continued to charge their 2G customers around ₹1.50 per minute. “They also charge a minimum of ₹500/GB for data from their 2G customers,” RJio said in a statement. “The price differential of free voice on the Jio network, and the exorbitantly high tariffs on 2G networks, causes the 35-40 crore 2G customers of Airtel and Vodafone-Idea to give missed calls to Jio customers. The Jio network receives 25-30 crore missed calls on a daily basis.”


Published on October 09, 2019

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