Jio users will have to pay 6 paise for outgoing calls to rival networks like Airtel, Vodafone

Jio users will have to pay 6 paise for outgoing calls to rival networks like Airtel, Vodafone
Jio has paid rivals like Bharti Airtel & Vodafone Idea Rs 13,500 crore as interconnect usage charge, which is levied when a customer makes an outgoing call to another operator’s customer (Representational Image, Courtesy: Sohu.com)

Amid uncertainty over the scrapping of call termination charges, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio on Wednesday announced it will charge customers 6 paise per minute for voice calls made to rival phone networks.

The operator added that it would compensate the customers by giving free data of equal value.

In a statement, Jio said the 6 paisa charge will remain in place for its 350 million customers till the time telecom operators are required to pay rivals for mobile phone calls made by their users to other operators’ networks.

These charges are not applicable to calls made by Jio users to other Jio phones and to landline phones and calls made using WhatsApp, FaceTime and other such platforms. Incoming calls from all networks will continue to be free.

Telecom regulator TRAI in 2017 had slashed the so-called interconnect usage charge (IUC) to 6 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.

The IUC is a cost paid by one mobile telecom operator to another when its customers make outgoing mobile calls to the other operator’s customers.

Since voice calls on Jio network are free, an estimated 35 – 40 crore customers of Airtel and Vodafone-Idea to give missed calls to Jio customers to get a callback. As a result, the Jio network receives 25 to 30 crore missed calls on a daily basis.

“This huge missed call phenomenon converts the incoming calls to Jio into outgoing calls from Jio to other operators. The 25 crore to 30 crore missed calls per day should have resulted in 65 crore to 75 crore minutes of incoming traffic to Jio. Instead, the call back made by the Jio customers results in 65 to 75 crore minutes of outgoing traffic,” it said.

Due to the high number of outgoing calls, the company had to bear the Rs 13,500 crore payment made to rivals such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

To recover the losses created by the TRAI move, the company has decided to charge customers 6 paise per minute for every call they make to a rival’s network.

Notably, this will be the first time that Jio users will pay for voice calls. Until now, it charged only for data, and voice calls to anywhere in the country and to any network were free.

“…The consultation paper has created regulatory uncertainty and therefore Jio has been compelled, most reluctantly and unavoidably, to recover this regulatory charge of 6 paise per minute for all off-net mobile voice calls so long as IUC charges exist,” the statement said.

For all recharges done by Jio customers starting Wednesday, calls made to other mobile operators will be charged at the prevailing IUC rate of 6 paise per minute through IUC top-up vouchers till such time that TRAI moves to zero termination charge regime.

“Jio will provide additional data entitlement of equivalent value based on IUC top-up voucher consumption. This will ensure no increase in tariff for customers,” Jio said.

Jio said it has, in the last three years, paid other operators like Airtel and Vodafone-Idea nearly Rs 13,500 crore as net IUC charges.

What’s next for Jio customers?

Jio customers who wish to make a voice call to either Airtel or Vodafone Idea will have to buy additional top-up vouchers of Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 and Rs 100, for additional IUC minutes.

The details of the top-ups are given below:

Rs 10 – 124 IUC minutes + 1 GB free data
Rs 20 – 249 IUC minutes + 2 GB free data
Rs 50 – 656 IUC minutes + 5 GB free data
Rs 100 – 1,362 IUC minutes + 10 GB free data

The IUC top-up vouchers don’t include any separate validity.

Postpaid customers, meanwhile, will be directly billed at 6 paise per minute for outgoing calls to other networks.

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