India's telecom regulator Trai has reportedly dismissed incumbent telcos' demand that the interconnect usage charge (IUC) be fixed as the minimum price of a voice call at 14 paise per minute.
In an interaction with ET, Trai chairman RS Sharma termed incumbents' demand as 'too much noise'. "I don’t think that’s really a correct thing to do for a regulator. The price is under forbearance; both the top and bottom should be under forbearance....it cannot be that for customers you can raise as much as you want, but you can’t take it below a certain threshold,” Sharma was quoted as saying.
Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, and Idea Cellular asked the Trai regulator that the fixed price should be taken as the floor for retail voice tariffs. These telcos further demanded that Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm’s free voice call offer should be banned.
The 4G entrant, since the launch till March 31, was offering free voice and data service, which helped it garner over 100 million users. It has now started charging for data but is giving free unlimited voice service for life for its customers.
Analysts say that Jio's move to offer free voice services has adversely impacted rival telecom operators that get 80% of revenues from voice.
The top official also backed minimalistic intervention and regulations for the telecom sector in the longer run. He said that unnecessary interventions don’t help.
According to him, the overall health of the sector has been the primary concern of the regulator.
“The telecom industry is very mature, vibrant, competitive, which is a good thing. I trust the wisdom of the players in this space, they’re mature enough to realize what is in their long-term interest,” Sharma was quoted as saying.