Forced by regulatory uncertainty over review of sunset clause for call termination charges, billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio on Wednesday announced that it will charge customers 6 paise per minute for voice calls made to rival phone networks for all data recharges made from 10 October onwards.
But Jio claims it will compensate the users by giving free data of equal value.
In a statement, Jio said the 6 paisa charge will remain in place till the time telecom operators are required to pay rivals for mobile phone calls made by their users to other operators' network.
These charges are not applicable on calls made by Jio users to other Jio phones and to landline phones and calls made using WhatsApp, FaceTime and other such platforms. Incoming calls from all networks will continue to be free.
We’ve also got to know that the top-up for making calls is only applicable for users who’re making their recharge after 10 October. Existing ones can use and make calls to other network without any additional charge.
Vodafone Idea termed Reliance Jio's plan to start charging 6 paise per minute for outgoing calls to rival network as "an action of undue haste" and an attempt to distract attention from the need for urgent action to address financial stress in the sector.
"The announcement by one of the telecom service providers today to charge for calls made to other service providers to cover the termination charge of IUC is not only an action of undue haste but it also does not bring out the fact that interconnect is a settlement between operators and not a consumer pricing matter" - Vodafone Idea statement
Bharti Airtel has also alleged that Jio's decision to levy 6 paise per minute on voice calls to rival phone networks is geared to "force IUC to be brought down".
This will be the first time that Jio users will have to pay for voice calls.
It all started after, telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI) in 2017 had slashed the so-called interconnect usage charge (IUC) to 6 paise per minute from 14 paise and had said this regime will end by January 2020. But it has now floated a consultation paper to review whether the regime timeline needs to be extended.
Since voice calls on Jio network have been free, the company had to bear the Rs 13,500 crore payment made to rivals such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.
To recover the losses created by the TRAI move, the company has decided to charge customers 6 paise per minute for every call they make to a rival's network.
"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. 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" - Reliance Jio statement
As you can see here, Jio users will have to get these top-up vouchers to get the so-called ‘free data’ which will be used to make voice calls to other networks. This probably means, that from 10 October onwards, all Jio users will have to pay extra to make their data recharges.
These extra charges will be applicable, till the IUC charges for telcos in India are brought to zero.
(With PTI inputs)
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