Telecom Regulatory Authority Defers Zero IUC For a Year To January 2021

6

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Tuesday deferred the introduction of zero IUC (interconnect usage charge) regime for a year to January 2021. The charge was earlier slated to take effect from January 2020. This move will be welcomed by Airtel and Vodafone Idea, but is likely to be opposed by Reliance Jio.

“For wireless to wireless domestic calls, termination charge would continue to remain as Re 0.06 (paise six only) per minute up to 31st December 2020. From 1st January, 2021 onwards the termination charge for wireless to wireless domestic calls shall be zero,” Trai said in its regulation.

Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel had urged the telecom regulator to postpone implementation of the zero-IUC regime as they are net revenue earners, while Reliance Jio, a net payer, had vehemently opposed any deferral.

The regulator in September had issued a discussion paper on deferring the implementation of the zero-interconnect usage charges (IUC) regime, saying that consumers are yet to migrate completely to data calls and there is still a lack of symmetry in voice traffic between operators.

In October, Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) had introduced a new set of tariff plans with additional IUC weaved in, to recover the IUC charges.

IUC, a charge paid by the call-originating telco to the destination operator, is at the heart of the latest spat between Jio and older incumbents Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea over the regulator’s move to seek views on deferring a zero-IUC regime. Jio wanted the charge to go, so as to lower its IUC payouts, while the older operators wanted it to stay as they are net revenue gainers from IUC.

Jio had dubbed the telecom regulator’s discussion paper seeking views on deferring implementation of zero-IUC regime as “bad in law and anti-poor,” created purely to incentivize incumbent operators, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, and keep India technologically stagnant and backward.

TRAI issued a Consultation Paper (CP) for review of Interconnection Usage charges on September 18, 2019 to seek the views of stakeholders on the review of date of applicability of BAK regime in respect of wireless to wireless termination calls.