In this year, we have seen a lot of ups and down in the telecom industry. The second half of 2019 has especially been tumultuous for the telecom sector. One of these major changes has been the introduction of the Interconnect Usage Charges (IUC) by the biggest telecom operator of India, Reliance Jio. The issue which had started with the reduction in ringing time eventually snowballed into something bigger and then initiated regulatory measures from the sector watchdog as well. Later on, Reliance Jio revealed that it would start charging its customers 6 paise per minute for all the calls that the subscribers make to other telecom operators. This move was obviously met with criticism from the subscribers. The subscribers also had this question in mind as to when the IUC costs would end and when the telco would stop charging them the 6 paise per minute cost. Now, the new notification from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) clarifies that the IUC charge is not going anywhere, anytime soon. At least, not for the next year.
Reliance Jio and the IUC Row
The Trai notification that was released recently states that the shift to the zero-IUC regime which was to be made at the end of this year will now be made in the end of next year. This means that the zero-IUC regime would come to effect in January 2021 and not January 202. Going by this, the telecom operators will have to continue paying the 6 paise per minute charge for interconnection points, and in the case of Reliance Jio, this means one thing - the subscribers will have to continue paying the 6 paise per minute IUC charge until the end of next year.
Other Telcos Refraining from Charging IUC
At the same time, other telecom operators like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are not charging anything from their customers, and their subscribers continue to enjoy free unlimited calling from their operators. All the telecom operators recently also raised their tariffs by as much as 40% starting with Vodafone Idea. After this, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel also followed. Even after the tariff hike, the Reliance Jio prepaid plans are slightly less priced than the competing offerings. But, there is a catch to this situation. Reliance Jio prepaid plans currently offer limited calling to other telecom operators with their prepaid plans. For example, the customers who opt for the prepaid plan of 28 days validity will get the plan with 1,000 minutes of free calling to other operators. If the subscribers run out of this limit, then they will have to pay 6 paise per minute for calling other telecom operators.
Reliance Jio Will Stop Charging Customers With Zero IUC Regime
It is worth noting that Reliance Jio had said that if the Government does away with the IUC regime and makes a shift to the zero-IUC regime, then Reliance Jio would also stop charging its customers with the 6 paise per minute charge. According to the previous timeline, the shift was to happen at the end of the current year. But, with the new statement from Trai, the shift to zero IUC regime will now happen a year later thus going by Reliance Jio’s words, it only entails that the customers will have to keep paying the 6 paise per minute IUC charge when they run out of free voice calling minutes.