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Jio, Airtel, Vodafone Will Continue Paying IUC Charges Till End-2020: TRAI

Representative image.
(Photo: Getty Images)

Representative image. (Photo: Getty Images)

The implementation of IUC charges led to operators imposing the additional tariff on its customers, in order to recover the added cost.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has established that interconnect usage charges (IUC) in the Indian telecom operator space will be kept in place for an extension of another year. As a result, consumers will be required to bear the added IUC cost of 6p per minute until December 31, 2020, in place of the initial deadline when IUC tariff was expected to be resolved by the end of 2019 itself.

The move comes at a time when the Indian telecom space is undergoing a revision in tariff, leading to an increase in call charges across all plans. The implementation of interconnect charges created some stir among users in India, where telecom tariff is among the least expensive in the world. Clarifying the issue, Reliance Jio, India's leading telecom operator, presently offers usage credit of 1GB additional data for every Rs 10 charge incurred by an user due to cross-operator calling. The same now reflects in its unlimited call packages, where a set number of minutes are allocated for calls made to other operators.

Other operators such as Airtel and Vodafone-Idea are offering 'truly unlimited' calls in their packages, while charging a higher amount for the recharge packs in comparison to Reliance Jio. The added IUC tariff, like stated above, was scheduled to be terminated and Bill and Keep (BAK) regime was to be instated from January 1, 2020. However, the regulatory body has revealed that the same has been revised in alignment with comments received from its consultation paper on the matter. In a press release, it says, "comments and the counter-comments received from the stakeholders were placed on the TRAI's website. An Open House Discussion was held on 15.11.2019 at New Delhi to discuss the issues with all stakeholders."

It further states, "On the basis of comments received from stakeholders in writing and during the open house discussion, and its own analysis, the Authority has prescribed the revised date of applicability of Bill and Keep (BAK)regime i.e. zero termination charges in respect of wireless to wireless domestic calls w.e.f 1st January 2021 through these Regulations."

With this in sight, and a request from the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) to TRAI for fixing a base floor pricing for all telecom services, it remains to be seen how the average consumer gets impacted in terms of overall tariff costs across all prepaid and postpaid services. While the IUC deadline is set, the decision on fixing a floor pricing for all operators is expected post January 31, 2020, when TRAI closes all comments on its consultation paper from stakeholders in the Indian telecom space.

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