Jio says TRAI’s IUC review will harm users, punish efficient telcos, reward defaulters

Jio says TRAI’s IUC review will harm users, punish efficient telcos, reward defaulters

Terming TRAI’s review of call connect charges “retrograde”, Reliance Jio has said the regulator’s consultation paper is neither warranted nor sustainable and that retention of such charges will harm subscribers and punish efficient operators. Jio alleged that any deferment of sunset clause for inter-operator termination charges will end up rewarding “designed defaulters” who have deliberately stayed away from new and efficient technologies.

Jio has shot off a letter to TRAI saying the present Consultation Paper “subsidises and incentivises the telecom service providers who, by design and astute planning, do not want to shift to IP based technology”. Jio has questioned TRAI’s jurisdiction and reasons to tinker with the original schedule for implementation of zero termination charge regime from January 1, 2020.

Launching a scathing attack on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which is examining whether sunset clause for inter-operator termination charges should be deferred, Jio said nothing prevented incumbent operators from switching their networks to efficient VOLTE (Voice over Long-Term Evolution) all this while.

“Unfortunately, this consultation process is an inducement and acts as an incentive to such calculated and planned asymmetry, and it has become apparent and evident that securing termination charges has become an unfettered source of income (and not a means for cost recovery) for these operators,” Jio said in its letter dated October 10.

It said charging a termination cost would perhaps be justified by two purposes, cost recovery and addressing inevitable prevalence of asymmetry in traffic, and noted that since neither of these purposes exist any deferment of the regime will inflict immense harm to the subscriber base and causes enormous damage to the TSPs who have deployed efficient technologies.

The Mukesh Ambani-led company has also pointed to gaps in the 4G accessibility data cited in the TRAI’s discussion paper and added that nothing prevented operators from converting their circuit switch based voice into VOLTE. Jio accused other private operators of not moving to new technologies simply because they will have to move into a Bill And Keep (BAK) regime, and “will stop receiving termination charges.”

TRAI’s review acts as an “active inducement and promotes designed defaulters and acts as a punishment to those TSPs who have aligned themselves with the required technology with an endeavour to deliver the best service and at a low price to their subscribers”. Jio said TRAI has no jurisdiction or cogent reasons to intervene with the original schedule for implementation of zero termination charge regime.

“The data recorded by TRAI in the Consultation Paper reveals that the default on part of these telecom operators is not only a designed default, but also intended to maximize collection of unfettered revenues through termination charges,” Jio said.

Notably, Jio said consultation paper while posing the question as to whether the sunset clause should be implemented as planned or deferred, does not address the termination charges payable after the deadline, if the date for its implementation is indeed deferred.

“It appears that the process initiated by the present Consultation Paper would simply defer the date of the implementation of the BAK regime and the terminating charge would remain at the 6 p/min, which would be wholly irrational,” it said. The further question as to whether the termination charge from January 1, 2020 should be 6 paisa or less has not been factored in the consultation process. Jio said the issue should be included to the current deliberations, should TRAI still consider the need to pursue the consultation process.