The ongoing fight between incumbent operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular on the one hand and Reliance Jio Infocomm on the other is on an even level so far with both sides scoring a point each.
At a meeting with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman RS Sharma on Friday, the incumbents got an assurance that the authority would examine their complaint that Reliance Jio’s tariffs were non-IUC (interconnect user charge) compliant and hence illegal and that its free services beyond the three-month period — which ends on December 5 — is also against regulatory norms. Whether Jio can provide free voice services for life and charge only for data will also be examined.
Where Jio scored was that the Trai chairman asked the incumbents to submit to the authority congestion at the points of interconnect level on a daily basis here onwards. Trai already served a notice to incumbent operators earlier this week for the high levels of congestion at the their PoIs vis-a-vis Jio based on congestion data it had asked these operators to submit between September 15 and 19.
Sharma told FE that the authority will examine the issues raised by the incumbent operators with regard to Jio’s tariff and get back to them. “The issue is regarding the telecom tariff order of 2004, which states that tariffs should be non-predatory, non-discriminatory and IUC compliant. They said that by providing free voice calls Jio is violating this order as voice tariffs cannot be lower than 14 paise per minute, which is the termination rate,” he said.
“We said we will examine this order and revert. The other issue raised by them was that free services cannot be provided beyond a period of three months after filing tariffs with the regulator. This period ends on December 5, while Jio’s free offer is till December 31. Further, they apprehend what if it further extends it. Here also we said we will examine it,” Sharma added. “On PoI congestion, I asked them to submit details of congestion levels on a daily basis now onwards since our concern is that consumers should not be inconvenienced,” he added.
Friday’s meeting was attended by the CEOs of Bharti Airtel, Gopal Vittal, Vodafone, Sunil Sood, and Idea Cellular, Himanshu Kapania.
Officials said Trai has asked for data and explanation from Jio on its tariffs and is likely to meet them either on Monday or sometime next week.
The CEOs told FE that the meeting was cordial and constructive and they were satisfied with Trai’s approach.
The incumbent operators said Jio cannot provide free voice services for life and charge only for data as per the 2004 tariff order. This is because voice tariffs cannot go below 14 paise per minute. Though Bharti and Vodafone also have tariff packages for postpaid users beginning from Rs 1,199 per month and Rs 1,999 per month respectively, where voice services are free, they said if the authority terms such packages as illegal, they have no problem stopping these schemes.