Reliance Jio Infocomm’s welcome offer under which it is offering free connection and services to its subscribers will now end on December 3 against the earlier promised date of December 31. This was communicated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Thursday to the CEOs of incumbent operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Telenor. In a telex message to the CEOs of these companies, Trai said, “The revised offer of free services by RJIL has been limited to 90 days ie up to 03.12.2016 and, therefore is consistent with the guidelines on promotional offers.”
However, in a late-evening statement, Jio said its revised plan that has been approved by Trai provides that customers can enrol as its subscriber from December 3, while the free benefits will be available to all consumers till December 31. “As per RJIL’s filing with Trai, the Jio Welcome Offer (JWO) will be available to all the customers for subscription till December 3, 2016. RJIL wishes to reconfirm that JWO benefits of free unlimited voice and data will continue to be available to all subscribers till December 31, 2016,” the statement said.
Jio has also left another window open to extend the benefits beyond December 31, if it wants to. In its earnings statement on Thursday evening, Reliance Industries said, “Jio may extend the period of free services in case its subscribers are not able to get adequate experience of seamless connectivity across network due to interconnection congestion and the quality of service parameters are not as per the benchmarks desired by the Jio management.”
The company has said that 75 calls are failing out of every 100 call attempts made.Clearly, the stage is set for more regulatory battles between the two sides.The incumbent operators had jointly written to Trai on September 20 followed by a meeting with the chairman on September 30 where they complained that free services cannot exceed 90 days after filing the tariffs (Jio had filed the tariffs on September 5).
While on the free offer Trai’s order many now seem confusing, on another front the incumbents have clearly lost. Trai has said that the tariff plans offered by Jio upon examination by it have been found to be IUC (interconnect usage charge) compliant and that they are not predatory and discriminatory at present. “However, the Authority would continue to keep a close watch on the tariffs being offered in the market by all players including RJIL,” it added.
In their joint representation as well as in the meeting with Trai chairman RS Sharma on September 30, the incumbents had made out a case that as per a tariff order of 2004, tariffs cannot be lower than the termination rate, which is 14 paise per minute. As per their contention based on this order, Jio cannot offer free voice services for life and charge only for data. Clearly, Trai has ruled against their interpretation of the order and allowed Jio to offer free voice services.