Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular Lobby For Raising IUC to Recover Cost at Trai Meeting: Report

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Today, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular sought to double the interconnect usage charge (IUC), which is basically the cost of carrying an incoming call on the host network, to 30 paise per minute. At an ongoing workshop held by the telecom regulator on Tuesday, Bharti Airtel and Idea have apparently claimed that their cost of a call is 30 paise per minute.

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"Telcos are saying that this is their cost of terminating calls, which is more than the existing level," said one of the sources to ETTelecom.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had called a meeting today where all telecom service providers attended to discuss in detail about the interconnect charges. The IUC has been a prevalent issue for quite some time in the telecom industry and is now under review through industry consultations.

Among other demands made by the telecom companies, the upward revision of interconnect usage charges (UIC) is a pressing issue to be discussed in the meeting with Trai, scheduled on 21 July. In order to get sorted with the issue as soon as possible, the incumbents have suggested the regulator raise charges, since the current structure is not able to cover costs. According to the executives of incumbent telecom companies, the call-connect charges are below cost at present and need to be corrected.

For those not in the know, interconnect charges are the charges paid by one telecom operator to another when a call terminates on the other network. As of now, the charges for wireless calls are 14 paise per minute, however, Trai has agreed to review these charges upon insistence from stakeholders. Trai is meeting major telecom companies on Tuesday for a workshop where the operators will give presentations on IUC followed by an open-house discussion on the matter on Thursday.

Telecom companies such as Reliance Jio and Vodafone have been asked to make presentations for the Tuesday workshop while Airtel and Idea have already completed their presentations on the issue today.

Most telecom operators are in favour of raising the IUC, except for Jio and Reliance Communications, which suggested for the charges to be brought down to zero. The incumbent telcos with the IUC to be fixed on a ‘full-cost’ basis; on the other hand, the Reliance Jio wants a ‘bill-and-keep’ method.

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