Ring duration: Trai views within 2 weeks as Airtel, Jio, Vodafone Idea and BSNL fail to reach consensus

Ring duration: Trai views within 2 weeks as Airtel, Jio, Vodafone Idea and BSNL fail to reach consensus

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is expected to give its views within two weeks over what should be the appropriate ring duration for mobile calls as operators have failed to arrive at a consensus on the thorny issue.

The authority was forced to intervene in the matter after Reliance Jio reduced the ringing time to 20 seconds from 45 seconds, which forced the incumbent operators to complain to Trai and even after several meetings, there was no unanimity on what should be the right duration. As an interim measure, all the private operators have reduced the ringing time to 25 seconds, same as that of Jio, but the tussle continues.

It is, however, not clear if Trai will give its recommendations to department of telecommunications (DoT) or notify the regulations regarding the time as part of quality of service rules.

Trai conducted an open house discussion on the issue on Thursday and one thing that came out strongly was that it should be the terminating operator, which should fix the ring duration. All operators present during the discussion, barring Reliance Jio, agreed that terminating telco should fix the ringing duration. Telcos present during the discussion included Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio, BSNL and MTNL.

There was, however, no unanimity on the matter as Bharti Airtel said it should be 45 seconds like earlier while Vodafone Idea proposed 30 seconds. BSNL and MTNL also agreed it to be 45 seconds while Reliance Jio said ringing time should be 20 seconds. The Reliance Jio representative was subjected to some tough questioning by Trai officials during the discussion. The officials even countered some of the figures arrived at by Jio regarding the benefits of reducing the ringing time.

Jio reiterated that the issue of ringing duration should be kept in forbearance and not regulated, which made Trai chairman RS Sharma to clarify that the authority was forced to intervene as operators have not sorted out the issue amicably. “We first tried an amicable solution but when that did not happen, we have to start the consultation process,” Sharma said.

Bharti Airtel said due to the reduction of ringing time by originating operator, the calls are getting disconnected even before the timer of terminating operator expires. “In the history of telecom sector, it’s always the terminating operator, which fixes the timer not the originating operator,” said an official of Bharti Airtel. For perspective, Jio had reduced the time to 20 seconds as originating operator, which means calls will automatically get disconnected after 20 seconds when a person is calling somebody. Jio later increased the time to 25 seconds, which is currently prevailing. As a result of reduction in ringing time from originating operator, many of the services like call forwarding etc can not be utilised by users.

Behind the debate over ringing time, there is a larger issue about termination charges where Jio continues to be a net payer rather than a receiver because its network receives more calls than outgoing ones.

According to figures shared by Trai, Bharti’s incoming calls (from other networks) stands at 54.70% compared to 45.30% of outgoing calls. Jio’s incoming calls stand at 35.75% and outgoing at 64.25%, while for Vodafone Idea incoming calls are 59.30% and outgoing at 40.70%. Since termination charges are paid on the basis of outgoing calls, it can be seen that Jio has the lowest percentage of such calls so its outgo on termination will be the highest. Bharti Airtel and Vodafone allege that by unilaterally reducing the ring duration Jio was trying to correct the asymmetry in its favour. However, Jio counters such allegations.