Confident Of Finalising IUC Views Before Jan. 1 Deadline, Says TRAI Chairman
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is confident of concluding industry-wide consultations and finalising its view on the issue of call connect charge before Jan. 1, despite the tight timeline.
"Certainly, we will be able to meet the deadline. It is, now, a limited question. It is a factual situation on the ground and the limited question is whether the deadline should be there, or it should be extended," TRAI Chairman RS Sharma told PTI.
Sharma, however, declined to make any comments on the interconnect usage charge issue citing the ongoing consultation.
TRAI on Sept. 18, had invited public views to its consultation paper on "Review of Interconnection Usage Charges" to re-examine the original Jan. 1, 2020 deadline for service providers to end IUC.
Last date for comments on the discussion paper is Oct. 18 and for counter comments it is Nov. 1.
With the contentious IUC issue back on the radar, the industry has erupted into a war of words over the last few days. Bharti Airtel Ltd. has accused Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. of "gaming" the system of paying for calls to rival network, and Jio has returned fire arguing that incumbents are charging high voice tariffs and manipulating the system to the detriment of their users.
Without naming Jio, a senior Airtel official had earlier this week alleged that "one large 4G-only operator" has arbitrarily slashed ringing time for outgoing calls to other networks. This, it said, has not only led to customer inconvenience (since the calls are cut-off midway before answering), but prompted a barrage of call back to artificially convert outgoing calls to incoming on its network.
Typically, a telecom operator pays for connecting calls of its subscribers to the company on whose network a call terminates. Currently, an operator is required to pay 6 paise per minute as mobile call termination charge, called IUC.
The IUC was originally proposed to be made nil from January 1, 2020. But TRAI is now reviewing the timeline.
Also read: TRAI Seeks View On 11-Digit Mobile Number
Jio has countered all allegations made by Airtel saying at least one-fourth of calls landing on the company's network are missed calls as incumbent firms charge high tariffs for making calls, and their customers, therefore, prefer a Jio user to call back using free voice calling available on the network.
"Therefore, the more efficient operator will end up paying IUC to the less-efficient and costlier operator," the Jio official had contended.
The telecom regulator had asked warring operators to arrive at a mutually-acceptable solution over the dispute related to call ring duration, until it concludes a separate consultation on call ringtime.
According to multiple sources privy to recent discussions between the regulator and telecom operators, Jio has informed Trai that it is willing to raise its call ringing time to 25 seconds (from 20 seconds currently).
A senior Airtel official, however, maintained that the company has not formally been informed about Jio's decision, which in any case is unacceptable to it. The official said that during the said meeting with TRAI, older operators were of the view that the call ringing time must not be less than 30 seconds.