Vodafone Idea: Jio’s action an undue haste

New Delhi: Telecom operator Vodafone Idea termed Reliance Jio’s plan to start charging six paise per minute for outgoing calls to rival network as “an action of undue haste” and an attempt to distract attention from the need for urgent action to address financial stress in the sector.

Without naming Jio directly in the statement, Vodafone Idea said that new announcement from the Mukesh Ambani led firm comes closely to the action taken recently to potentially hurt revenues of other operators with its recent unilateral action of reducing ringing time.

“The announcement by one of the telecom service providers today to charge for calls made to other service providers to cover the termination charge of IUC is not only an action of undue haste but it also does not bring out the fact that interconnect is a settlement between operators and not a consumer pricing matter,” Vodafone Idea said in a statement.

Telecom regulator TRAI in 2017 had slashed the so-called interconnect usage charge (IUC) to six paise per minute from 14 paise and had said this regime will end by January 2020. But it has now floated a consultation paper to review whether the regime timeline needs to be extended. In this backdrop, Jio has announced it will charge customers six paise per minute for voice calls made to rival phone networks, but will compensate them by giving free data of equal value.

Telecom operator Bharti Airtel has also alleged that Jio’s decision to levy six paise per minute on voice calls to rival phone networks is geared to “force IUC to be brought down”. Vodafone Idea said that Trai’s call for a consultation on IUC keeping in mind the continuing asymmetry in traffic and in line with its earlier stated position on the matter. “It seems like the consultative process is being challenged and is potentially drawing attention away from the real issue that the industry is in deep financial stress, a fact that’s now widely acknowledged. Bringing up the IUC matter seems like an attempt to distract from the need for urgent action to address financial stress in the sector,” the statement said.