This is not the first time that Trai’s inaction has had such implications for stakeholders in the telecom space.
While Trai was notified of RJio reducing its ringing time to 20 seconds some months ago, its failure to take cognisance of this and initiate action has now pushed other telcos to do the same. Jio subsequently raised the ringing time to 25 seconds, but older networks allowed for a 45-second ringing time. Now, both Airtel and Vodafone have decided to bring down ringing times. So, a person that receives a call gets only 25 seconds to respond. While Trai did release a consultation paper on the matter, it failed to ask telecom service providers to stick to the legacy ring-time before a final ring-time was fixed.
This is not the first time that Trai’s inaction has had such implications for stakeholders in the telecom space. It has even been accused of bias by TDSAT and the Supreme Court, and rapped by the Telecom Commission, telecom’s highest policy-making body. More important, in this matter, the issue is not of ringing time, but of the interconnect usage charge (IUC)—this is what the originating network pays to the terminating network. But, when the ringing time is shortened, and there are more missed calls, those who received these calls are likely to return them; a telco that would have paid an IUC now ends up collecting it. When Trai reduced the IUC rates in 2017, to six paise from 14 earlier, this wasn’t without its share of controversy either. New players, like Jio, that use IP technology wanted IUC eliminated, and argued that IUCs created a barrier to entry for new operators—the IUC meant Jio’s IUC payments exceeded what it charged customers—and was the reason for legacy operators not upgrading themselves. On the other hand, legacy players that had already built sizeable networks on the older technologies batted for higher IUCs. Ideally, instead of a Trai-mandated IUC, this should have been a market-determined one, with negotiations between the major players; all that Trai needed to mandate was that interconnections couldn’t be refused or delayed.