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Jio accuses Airtel, Vodafone Idea, BSNL of cheating; asks Trai to slap penalties

Jio’s accusation comes on the heels of the company slamming Trai in an earlier letter, calling its IUC review process a retrograde step and against consumers. The Ambani telecom has accused its rivals of reporting landline numbers as mobile ones t...

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Oct 17, 2019, 01.01 PM IST
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Jio
Jio and Airtel-Vodafone Idea have previously leveled allegations of ‘gaming’ the IUC regime against each other, with each side leveling charges of manipulating missed calls to elicit a return call, so as to gain from the termination charge.
NEW DELHI: Reliance Jio Infocomm has accused Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) of ‘cheating’ by fraudulently masquerading landline numbers as mobile numbers to unfairly earn interconnect revenue. The charge was rejected by Airtel, which said the Mukesh Ambani-owned telco was trying to ‘misguide’ the telecom regulator amid the ongoing consultation process on interconnect usage charge (IUC), as the war of words over the contentious fee heated up further.

In a strongly-worded letter to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) chairman R S Sharma dated October 14, Jio urged the telecom regulator to slap the heaviest penalties on both incumbents & BSNL for alleged violations of various telecom regulations, which it claimed had cost Jio hundreds of crores, and the government as well. It has also sought a refund of the termination charges it had paid the incumbents due to the alleged fraud.

“Airtel, Vodafone Idea and BSNL have implemented a process under which various enterprises are offered mobile numbers as their customer care or helpline numbers…the mobile number is used just as a virtual number for routing all such calls to call centres,” Jio said in the letter seen by ET. The exercise, it claimed, “changes the nature of the call from a mobile to wireline to a mobile to mobile which is a “fraudulent attempt” made Airtel, Vodafone Idea and BSNL to illegally extract interconnect charges at 6 paise per minute.

"...it is evident that such illegal, fraudulent and cheating practice has resulted into millions of minutes originating on RJIL network getting considered as mobile terminating minutes instead of wireline termination, not only causing huge loss in hundreds of crores to RJIL and undue enrichment of Incumbent operators but to influence the Authority on the apparent traffic asymmetry between RJIL and incumbent operator...," Jio added.

IUC is a charge paid to a telco on whose network a call terminates. But there is no IUC charge on mobile voice calls terminating on wirelines.

In a statement to ET, Airtel rejected Jio’s allegations, while Vodafone Idea and BSNL didn’t respond to ET’s queries.

“Enterprise customers referred to by Jio transfer their call to their unique number to a fixed line or another mobile number as this is permitted by the DoT. There is no loss to originating operator as the customer always dials a mobile and not a fixed line number,” Airtel said in a written response to ET’s queries.

War-of-Words


Jio’s latest letter comes on the heels of the company slamming Trai in an earlier letter, dated October 10, calling its IUC review process a retrograde step and against consumers, which if retained, would harm mobile users and punish efficient operators. The Trai is seeking views on deferring a zero-IUC regime, which was slated to take effect from January 2020. Jio, which is a net payer of IUC revenue, wants Trai to stick to the timeline, while Airtel and Vodafone Idea – net IUC revenue gainers – want the timeline to be deferred.

In its follow-up letter to Trai boss Sharma, Jio also alleged that Airtel, Voda Idea and BSNL are not only earning IUC revenue illegally but also denying the latest entrant revenue it could earn at 52 paise a minute for such calls, resulting in “undue enrichment for these incumbents at the cost of Jio”.

“We suspect thousands of such numbers are operational in the market deployed by incumbent operators," Jio said.

Such illegal, fraudulent and cheating practice, it said, has “resulted in millions of minutes originating on Jio’s network getting considered as mobile terminating minutes instead of wireline termination, not only causing huge loss in hundreds of crores to Jio and undue enrichment to incumbent operators but also to influence the Authority (read: Trai) on apparent traffic asymmetry between Jio and incumbents, which is the only reason cited by the Authority to review IUC regulations,” Jio has alleged.

IUC has been a bone of contention among the private carriers and the telecom regulator. Two years ago, Trai had cut it down from 14 paise a minute to 6 paise a minute and decided to scrap it from January 2020, a timeline which the regulator is reviewing now. This in fact prompted Jio to start charging its users for voice calls made to rivals’ networks, to account for the IUC it pays out.

Jio and Airtel-Vodafone Idea have previously leveled allegations of ‘gaming’ the IUC regime against each other, with each side leveling charges of manipulating missed calls to elicit a return call, so as to gain from the termination charge.

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