Late last week, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) brokered a temporary, fractious truce between Reliance Jio Infocomm on the one hand and incumbent operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular on the other, over the issue of points of interconnect (PoIs). Without enough PoIs, RJio says its subscribers cannot call on other networks, or get calls from them. Though incumbents agreed to release PoIs in a gradual manner while maintaining that the congestion was due to asymmetric calls from Jio’s networks to theirs’ because of free calls, FE on Monday tested how the actual call experience is from Jio’s network currently.
Not even a single call made from a Jio mobile connected to the networks of either Bharti Airtel, Vodafone or Idea. However, calls connected to landline phones of MTNL/BSNL and Tata Teleservices. A random check showed that most consumers having a Jio connection were using it only for data while using their other connection of incumbent operators for making calls. Jio officials told FE that they use Jio phones only for making on-net calls (Jio-to-Jio) as connecting with other networks is a difficult task. According to figures furnished by them, currently out of every 200 calls made from Jio’s network to that of incumbents, 150-160 failed. Around May, when the test services were launched, out of every 200 calls made, around 100-120 were failing. According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India norms on congestion, out of 200 calls, only one is allowed to fail.
However, the data experience is quite good. The download speed varies between 15.49 Mbps to 52.60 Mbps, while upload speeds are between 5.47 Mbps and 8.43 Mbps.
This compares better than Bharti Airtel’s 4G average download speed of 6.08 Mbps and upload of 5.85 Mbps. Both the operators’ speed tests were conducted at a single location. On a WiFi device provided by Reliance Jio, the download speed was at 15.20 Mbps and the upload speed was at 8.14 Mbps.
Notwithstanding the high number of call failures to other networks, consumers seem to be thronging to Jio stores for free connections. At one of the Reliance Digital stores located at Logix City mall in Noida, about 700 consumers were handed out tokens on Monday and asked to wait for at least an hour for a new subscription. The store, on an average, is issuing 400 SIMs a day, with 99% of them being verified through electronic mode using Aadhaar.
Consumers who do not have an Aadhaar number are asked to fill a customer application form for verification. At many places, the activation of the SIMs takes between two hours to two days.
On PoIs, while RJio had asked incumbents for 12,700 nodes for its initial estimate of 20-22 million subscribers within the next three months, the Trai has asked the incumbents to give out PoIs based on the number being 10 million to begin with. While Bharti, Vodafone and Idea have agreed to abide by this, they have informed Trai that the termination rate of 14 paisa per minute was less than the cost of handling a large number of calls coming from Jio’s network. In short, they want the termination charge to be raised to around 35-40 paise.
As compared with RJio’s demand for 12,700 PoIs, the incumbents have given it around 1,400 PoIs and according to their calculations, a maximum of 1,700 PoIs are enough to meet RJio’s needs till it reaches even a subscriber base of around 20 million, as compared with the 3-4 million it has right now.