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Trai defers zero IUC to Jan 2021; Airtel, Voda to gain

New Delhi

17-December-2019

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Tuesday deferred the introduction of zero IUC or interconnect usage regime for a year to January 2021, a move which will be welcomed by the incumbents like Airtel and Vodafone Idea but is likely to be opposed by Reliance Jio.

"For wireless to wireless domestic calls, termination charge would continue to remain as Re 0.06 (paise six only) per minute up to 31st December, 2020. From 1st January, 2021 onwards the termination charge for wireless to wireless domestic calls shall be zero," Trai said in its regulation.

While Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel have urged the regulator to postpone implementation of the zero-IUC regime, as they are net revenue earners, Reliance Jio, a net payer, had vehemently opposed any deferral.

The regulator in September had issued a discussion paper on deferring the implementation of the zero-interconnect usage charges (IUC) regime, saying that consumers are yet to migrate completely to data calls and that the lack of symmetry in voice traffic between operators still exists.

In October, Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) had introduced a new set of tariff plans with additional IUC weaved in had gone pay from its free voice service to recover IUC.

IUC, a charge paid by the call-originating telco to the destination operator, is at the heart of the latest spat between Jio and older incumbents Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea over the regulator's move to seek views on deferring a zero-IUC regime, which was slated to take effect from January 2020. Jio wants the charge to go, which will help to lower its IUC payouts, while the older operators want it to stay, since they are net revenue gainers from IUC.

Jio had said the telecom regulator's discussion paper seeking views on deferring implementation of zero-IUC regime, calling it "bad in law and anti-poor," created purely to incentivise incumbent operators, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, and keeping India technologically stagnant and backward.

TRAI issued a Consultation Paper (CP) for review of Interconnection Usage charges on September 18, 2019 to seek the views of stakeholders on the review of date of applicability of BAK regime in respect of wireless to wireless termination calls.IANS