The telecom industry could be lining up its next big shakeup, which could have a significant bearing on the telecom tariffs that mobile users in India pay. Reliance Jio has announced that they will now be charging the Interconnect Usage Charge (IUC) from its subscribers for calls they make to other mobile networks, such as Airtel, Vodafone-Idea or BSNL. Jio says they will be charging Rs 0.06 per minute as the charge for calls made from a Jio connection to other mobile networks.
While calls from Jio to other mobile networks are no longer free, Jio users get special recharge vouchers that offers additional data benefits and predefined free call minutes for calls made to other mobile networks—at no additional cost per call within that limit. Reliance Jio also clarifies that the 6 paise per minute charge will not apply on any Jio to Jio voice calls, any and all incoming calls on a Jio mobile connection, calls made from your Jio connection to a landline and data calls made for voice or video using apps such as WhatsApp and Apple FaceTime.
“So, for all recharges done by Jio customers starting today, calls made to other mobile operators will be charged at the prevailing IUC rate of 6 paise per minute through IUC top-up vouchers till such time that TRAI moves to Zero termination charge regime. Presently, this date is 1st January 2020,” says Jio in a press release shared with News18.
The Interconnect Usage Charge or IUC which is the basis for this move, is a tariff paid by one mobile telecom operator to another, when the customers of one mobile network make outgoing mobile calls to the another operator’s mobile network, that is to their friends and family using the other mobile network. For example, if person A is to make a call from a Reliance Jio connection to an Airtel mobile connection used by his friend, Reliance Jio will have to pay this charge to Airtel on a per minute basis because the call landed on the Airtel network. These calls between two different networks are known as mobile off-net calls, as defined by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The IUC charges are fixed by the TRAI at 6 paise per minute.
Till now, Reliance Jio had been paying the IUC charge to other operators even though they were offering unlimited voice calls to users, irrespective of the network they were calling to, for local calls and STD calls. Reliance Jio says that this new tariff will stay in place till the IUC tariffs are abolished in January 2020. “So far, in the last three years Jio has paid nearly Rs.13,500 crore as NET IUC charges to the other operators,” says Jio in an official statement.
So, what are the new tariff options for consumers who wish to make calls without additional charges to other mobile networks? There are multiple IUC Top-Up Voucher options available. The Rs 10 top-up voucher offers 124 minutes of non-IUC calls to non-Jio mobiles along with 1GB free additional data. The Rs 20 top-up voucher bundles 249 minutes of calls along with 2GB of data, the Rs 50 voucher offers 656 minutes of calls to other mobile networks and 5GB of data while the Rs 100 voucher allows for 1,362 minutes of calls along with 10GB of additional data.
Jio says in an official statement that in the year 2017, other mobile operators reduced voice tariffs for their 4G customers, they continued to charge exorbitant tariffs to their 35 - 40 crore 2G customers, and in fact increased the tariffs for voice calls to around Rs. 1.50/ minute. “The price differential of free voice on Jio network and exorbitantly high tariffs on 2G networks causes the 35 - 40 crore 2G customers of Airtel and Vodafone-Idea to give missed calls to Jio customers. Jio network receives 25 to 30 crore missed calls on a daily basis,” Jio says in a statement. “This huge missed call phenomena converts the incoming calls to Jio into outgoing calls from Jio to other operators. The 25 to 30 crore missed calls per day should have resulted in 65 to 75 crore minutes of incoming traffic to Jio. Instead, the call back made by the Jio customers results in 65 to 75 crore minutes of outgoing traffic,” the company adds. Jio also notes that in the year 2011, TRAI stated its opinion that termination charge should be made zero by 2014. At that, Jio did not exist and none of the operators had upgraded to the 4G networks.
Disclaimer: News18.com is part of Network18 Media & Investment Limited which is owned by Reliance Industries Limited that also owns Reliance Jio.