IUC Debate: Jio for scrapping it; Voda, Airtel say it should stay for 3 more years
Nahata said the ratio of incoming and outgoing calls for all telcos was now at 50 per cent each.
At the telecom regulator’s open house discussion on Friday, Jio said there were no grounds to delay implementation of the zero-IUC regime because traffic symmetry between operators had been achieved.
The regulator expects to take a decision on the matter soon. “We will come up with regulation on IUC as soon as possible,” TRAI chairman RS Sharma said, when asked about a timeline.
Jio director Mahendra Nahata said delaying the zero-IUC regime beyond January 2020 would hurt affordability of services, especially for rural users, who benefit from free calls offered by Jio and others. Jio recently started charging customers for calls made to other networks to recover IUC costs.
If the regulator does not favour scrapping IUC from January, “then at least IUC, currently at 6 paise, should be brought down,” he said.
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea opposed the idea.
“One operator should not end up subsidising the other,” said Bharti Airtel’s chief regulatory officer Ravi Gandhi. “We’re only saying that we should be compensated for the work we’re doing, and that is the principle that the authority should adopt.”
IUC is paid by call-originating telcos to the destination network. Jio is currently a net payer of IUC to Airtel and Vodafone Idea. Traffic symmetry is attained when incoming and outgoing calls are not lopsided, negating the need for IUC payments.
Trai’s latest review of IUC comes barely two years after deciding to reduce the charge by 57 per cent to 6 paise a minute from October 2017 and phase it out from January 2020. That decision was backed by Jio at that time.
Nahata said the ratio of incoming and outgoing calls for all telcos was now at 50 per cent each. This compares with 90 per cent outgoing and 10 per cent incoming in April 2017, and from 62 per cent outgoing and 38 per cent incoming in September 2019.
“The reason of traffic asymmetry is no longer there for delaying the zero termination charge from January 1, 2020,” he said.
He added that Airtel and Vodafone Idea had also expanded their 4G networks, which meant that cost of carrying calls had gone down. However, he alleged that their subscriber traffic was being diverted to 2G or 3G networks to show a higher cost for voice.
“Airtel has 37 per cent 4G traffic and yet only 18 per cent of its subscribers are on 4G… either wrong data is being given or subscriber traffic was being diverted to 2G or 3G networks to show a higher cost for voice. This must be looked into before Trai takes a decision,” Nahata added.
Airtel’s Gandhi rejected allegations of data fudging, terming them “misplaced,” and said people at times use the company’s SIM in the second slot of a mobile phone, which generally supports 2G or 3G networks.