TRAI weighs in on Jio interconnect fight

12 Sep 2016

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is expected to reject calls from incumbent operators to increase the interconnection usage charge (IUC) for calls originating from newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm’s (RJIL’s) network, the Times of India writes, citing TRAI sources. The announcement follows a meeting between the incumbents, RJIL and the TRAI to resolve a disagreement between the parties over interconnection: RJIL has complained that its entrenched rivals are breaking the terms of their licence by failing to provide sufficient points of interconnection (PoIs), whilst the incumbents have been reluctant to open their networks to a ‘tsunami’ of calls from RJIL’s customer base, arguing that the asymmetry caused by RJIL’s offer of free calls would clog their networks. As part of its launch, RJIL’s services are completely free until 31 December 2016, following which customers will begin paying for their tariffs. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular requested permission to charge more than the current IUC of INR0.14 (USD0.002) per minute to cope with the ‘financial burden’ of an anticipated surge in calls from RJIL’s users. The regulator is reportedly planning to reject the call, however, with one source quoted as saying: ‘We do not find any merit in the demand. The call termination charge cannot be related only to the intensity and number of calls, and thus there is no logic in such a request.’

For its part, Airtel has confirmed that it will provide more PoIs to ensure that customers are not affected but nevertheless urged the regulator to take immediate action. The cellco explained that the incumbents do not have the financial or network resources to cope with the imbalance of traffic generated by RJIL’s offers, although it expects the issue to subside in early 2017 once RJIL begins charging for its services. Meanwhile, the TRAI said that the operators must resolve the issue amongst themselves, but warned that it would intervene if service quality suffers as a result of the impasse.