Reliance Jio said on Friday any delay in implementation of zero call connect charges beyond January 2020, the original deadline, would hurt affordability of telecom services. “The ratio of incoming to outgoing calls is now even, and traffic asymmetry is, therefore, no longer a reason to delay implementation of the Bill and Keep (BAK) regime (zero mobile termination charge from January 1, 2020),” said Mahendra Nahata, director at Reliance Jio.
Traffic symmetry indicates that a telecom operator will not have any outstanding balance of interconnect usage charges (IUC) against other networks.
Speaking at the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) open house on the IUC issue, Nahata said Airtel had expanded its 4G network and Vodafone Idea, too, was talking about expanding its 4G network. “We are not considering any profit or loss, but opposing it on the basis of principle. Criticising the decision of government or regulatory authorities from a distant location is beyond our understanding. Therefore, please take a decision after due diligence on all points we have raised,” he said.
Nahata questioned the data being shown by telecom operators and alleged that the subscriber traffic was being diverted to 2G, 3G networks to show a higher cost of voice.
Nahata added that in case Trai does not favour implementation of the BAK regime from January 2020, then it should at least bring down the IUC, currently at 6 paise.
“When you had implemented the 6-paisa charge, 4G traffic was 1 per cent. Today, it is much higher and hence costs must come down,” he said.
A Vodafone Idea official said that consumers today had the option of moving to other networks through mobile number portability (MNP).
“Today, customers have the option of MNP and may move on to another network. It is wrong to say that any operator is holding back customers on 2G network,” the official said, demanding that the mobile call termination charges should continue. Airtel said that the IUC should not come down to zero, and that the BAK regime should be postponed by at least three years.
Ravi Gandhi, chief regulatory officer of Airtel, rejected the allegations of data fudging, terming them as “misplaced” and said people at times used the company’s SIM in the second slot of their phones, which generally supports a 2G or 3G network. He said there were 400 million consumers on 2G network and that they use low-cost feature phones. Shutting down the 2G network would mean depriving such consumers of telecom services.