Telecom War: Airtel Says It’s Compelled To Cut Ring Time To 25 Seconds
Customers at a cafe speak into their mobile phones in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: Sanjit Das/Bloomberg News)

Telecom War: Airtel Says It’s Compelled To Cut Ring Time To 25 Seconds


Amid a high decibel feud over call ring duration, Bharti Airtel Ltd. said it has been compelled to cut ring time on its network to 25 seconds to plug losses and match a similar move by rival Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., and rued that it was left with no choice in the absence of a firm directive by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India .

TRAI had asked the warring operators to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution over the dispute until it concludes a formal consultation on the matter.

TRAI sources told PTI that the regulator is planning an open house discussion on the issue of ‘duration of alert for the called party’ on Oct. 14, and the entire matter, for which a consultation paper has already been floated, will be decided soon.

Airtel has said that while its decision to cut call ring time, in response to a move by its Jio, may cause customer inconvenience, the company was left with no other choice in the absence of a firm directive from the regulator, despite repeated representations.

“While, we realise that this may cause inconvenience to customer, however, in absence of any direction from TRAI and to prevent further loss of Interconnect Usage Charges, we are not left with no other option than to reduce the timer in our network as well,” Airtel said in a recent letter to the TRAI.

Airtel, in the letter dated Sept. 28, informed TRAI secretary that the company has reduced the ringing timer to 25 seconds on its network “as well”.

“Despite our repeated requests since last 7-8 weeks, TRAI has neither directed Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. to restore the timer to its original value nor issued any general direction to all operators to set the timer to 30 seconds as proposed by majority of operators during the meetings,” Airtel said.

The Sunil Mittal-led company contended that it repeatedly brought to TRAI's notice the consequences of Jio's move to reduce the ringer duration, including higher incidence of missed calls in cases where the called party is not able to answer immediately.

It would also lead to increase in number of call attempts to reach out to the called party; and the called party having to call back after they see missed calls, “thereby adversely impacting the consumers' experience as well as network Quality of Service”.

Moreover, Airtel argued, the reduction in the ringing timer by Jio also deprives the called party the facility of call forwarding feature in case of ‘no reply and voice mail’, besides “gaming the Interconnect usage charges payouts by converting these outgoing calls to incoming calls, which is ultimately causing a huge loss of revenue to Airtel”.

Late last month, as the contentious IUC issue came back on the regulator's radar, the industry -- polarised over the issue -- erupted into a war of words.

Airtel accused Reliance Jio 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 recently alleged that "one large 4G-only operator" has arbitrarily slashed ringing time for outgoing calls to other networks. This, Airtel had said, not only led to customer inconvenience (since the calls are cut-off midway before answering), but prompted a barrage of call backs 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: Reliance Jio Has Widest 4G Network In India, Airtel’s Grows Over Three-Fold: TRAI

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