Even as the Trai and the incumbent telcos are locked in an intense debate over interconnect usage charge for domestic calls, Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti Group, has pointed that the regulator not debating IUC for international calls means it accepts that it is a globally accepted concept and should be cost-based. Hence, Mittal’s contention is that IUC for domestic calls should be based on the basis of actual cost and not any other criteria. In a letter to Trai chairman R S Sharma, Mittal said that what “surprises” him is that in the current debate over IUC, no one has talked about the termination charges on international calls. “The Trai is not even debating this issue, therefore, confirms the Authority’s acceptance to the principle that IUC is indeed a settled global practice built on fair and equitable settlements for work done by each operator for carrying each other’s calls,” Mittal said in the letter, seen by FE.
At present, the IUC on calls from India to the US is charged at around 1.2 US cent, 3-30 US Cents (for Europe), 10-14 US Cents (for Middle East), while the termination charges on calls to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal is around 10-12 US Cents. The IUC on incoming international calls to India, which is fixed by Trai, is 53 paise and Indian international operators charge around 1 US Cent as IUC for incoming calls on their network. Mittal said the present IUC regime has not impacted the mobile tariffs, which hit record lows. Besides, it ensured that telecom operators continue to invest in their networks. “IUC has no relation to consumer tariff and customers are enjoying free or affordable calls are testimony that the current IUC regime is not coming in the way of affordable tariffs. At the same time, it is ensuring investments in networks continue to be made by all operators and customer calls are satisfactorily completed,” he noted.
He added that regulators from the developed to the emerging nations have “ensured” that the “concept of compensating operators” for investments is “adhered”. “It is, therefore, not a surprise that the advanced countries, whether in North America or Europe, and for that matter Japan, South East Asia and the emerging markets of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and all of Africa and Latin America operate under a fair IUC regime,” Mittal added. Even as a debate based on “information and misinformation” is taking centre stage, Mittal said he hopes for a “fair and reasonable” outcome of the present consultation on IUC.