Telecom regulator Trai will finalise, in next two weeks, its views on call ring time - a contentious issue on which old and new operators have locked horns. On the controversial issue of Jio's latest allegations that rival telcos are fraudulently masking fixed-line as mobile calls for undue enrichment and should be slapped with penalty, a senior Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) official said the matter will be examined just as all complaints to the authority are. "Any complaint that generally comes to us will be examined... If there is any violation, we will look into the matter..." the official said. Reliance Jio has accused old operators including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea of "illegally" masquerading wireline numbers as mobile numbers for "undue enrichment" and has exhorted Trai to slap "severest penalty" on them for violating regulations and licensing norms.
After the fresh set of allegations surfaced, Bharti Airtel immediately hit back saying Jio was trying to misguide the regulator ahead of the crucial consultation on call connect charges (also called IUC or interconnect usage charges). Meanwhile, at the open house discussions on the issue of call ring-time on Thursday, a senior Jio official urged the telecom regulator to keep the matter under forbearance.
Jio has maintained that if at all Trai wants to take a view on the issue, it should be in form of a reference guidelines and not in form of a mandated value. "In such a case, the range of 20 seconds to 25 seconds may be prescribed as reference guideline," Jio has informed Trai, which is in the process of finalising its views on the issue through a consultation paper.
In its submission, Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL) flagged the arbitrariness of one particular operator in reducing the ring-time without prior notice to other telcos or even subscribers, and said that call ring-time is linked to quality of service. VIL in its written submissions to Trai has argued that the minimum ringing timer should be retained at 30 seconds, which, the company claimed is in tune with global practices.
A Bharti Airtel executive present at the open house - a platform provided by Trai to telcos and other stakeholders to offer verbal response on consultation papers after written submissions are made - asserted that originating timer has to be higher than the terminating timer. Airtel had, in its written comments to Trai, recommended that the terminating exchange timer should be fixed at 45 seconds and the origination exchange timer at 75 seconds.
Late last month, as the contentious interconnect usage charges (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 had returned fire arguing that incumbents are charging high voice tariffs and manipulating the system to the detriment of their users.
The call ringing time issue is an important one for telecom players. 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, as part of a separate consultation exercise. Older operators had cried foul when Jio slashed its call ring-time. Incumbent operators Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea then slashed ring-time on outgoing calls from their network to 25 seconds to counter a similar move by Jio and plug losses amid a high voltage dispute, over the issue. This is an interim measure, and the final decision on the call ring time will be taken by Trai soon.
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