The Bombay High Court on Friday did not provide a stay on the implementation of the new mobile termination charge announced by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on September 19, which comes into effect from October 1, but admitted the petition and fixed the hearings on it on November 15. The court directed Trai to file its reply by November 3. Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular had on Thursday moved the court seeking a stay on the implementation of the new rates unless they are heard. The new termination rates at 6 paise per minute is 57% lower than the 14 paise that has been in force since March 2015. Both operators have alleged that the drastic cut in the charges is detrimental to the health of the telecom industry and favours only one operator, Reliance Jio. In anticipation of telecom operators approaching the courts, Trai had filed caveats in all the high courts in the country so that it gets a chance to give its response.
It is estimated that Trai’s move to cut the rates would lead to a loss of over Rs 4,000 crore annually to the three big incumbent operators — Bharti, Vodafone and Idea — while leading to an annual saving of around Rs 5,000 crore to Jio.
The termination charge is paid to the operator on whose network the call terminates by the originating network. This charge has been on a declining trend for the last several years. However, the entry of Jio last year and its free services led to asymmetric calls — around 92% calls from Jio terminate on the networks of incumbents while only 8% calls of the latter terminate on Jio’s networks.