New Delhi, Sep 8: Telecom regulator Trai has called a meeting with operators to resolve the ongoing dispute involving Reliance Jio and incumbent players such as Airtel, Vodafone and Idea over inter-connecting points. “Trai is meeting telecom operators tomorrow on the inter-connection issue,” an official source said. Industry body COAI – the association of telecom operators – has written to the Prime Minister’s Office stating that incumbents are “not obliged to entertain inter-connect requests” that are “anti-competitive”. It has sought PMO’s intervention on the issue to “restore fair competition”.
COAI submitted that incumbent operators are in no position by way of network or financial resources to terminate volumes of traffic that are “markedly asymmetric”. “Neither are they obliged to entertain inter-connect requests which are derived from abnormally induced traffic patterns that game the interconnection-usage charge (IUC) regime and are anti-competitive,” COAI said in the letter to the PMO. Reliance Jio, which commercially launched its services on September 5, has accused incumbent players like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone of not releasing sufficient inter-connection ports.(ALSO READ: 4G telecom service to rake over Rs 79,000 crore in 4 years: Study)
COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews told PTI that before giving inter-connection to Reliance Jio, the operators need clarity on whether the services of the new entrant are now “commercial” and if it is so, the company cannot offer free service for more than 90 days. “Freebies cannot be extended beyond 90 days. Anything after 90 days becomes tariff. They will have to start charging customers after 90 days if they have started service commercially from September 5,” Mathews said. On its part, Reliance Jio has said its services are free till December 31, following which consumers will charged as per tariff plans that include free voice calls. Mathews said Trai will also have to clarify on inter-connection charge which the regulator has fixed at 14 paise, but telecom operators have challenged it in the court.
“Even if they (Jio) pay me 14 paise, telecom operators will lose 16-18 paise because the call termination cost is 32 paise,” Mathews reasoned. When network starts getting congested because of heavy traffic coming from Jio, the telecom operators will naturally have to prioritise calls, he said, adding that this is because spectrum is limited and hence, networks are not flexible to take the asymmetric load. “The volume of calls will start congesting network and in that case, telecom operators will start losing 43-46 paise per call if their existing customer is unable to connect an outgoing call due to an incoming call from Jio network. This all needs to be seen,” Mathews explained.