The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is retaining the six paise per minute Interconnect Usage Charges (IUC) for another year. To recall, Trai was supposed to implement zero-IUC regime on January 1, 2020, according to its announcement made back in 2017. However, incumbents Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea had approached Trai to postpone the zero-IUC regime by at least three years. Zero-IUC regime would benefit Reliance Jio the most as it has VoLTE technology across the country for voice calling; Whereas Airtel and Vodafone Idea are still GSM operators, so they claim the voice calls from Reliance Jio still incur charges. Trai expected that every telecom operator would roll out VoLTE by 2020 so that the voice calls will be routed through the internet (Voice over LTE). Apparently, that did not happen, which made Trai retain the six paise IUC regime for another year. What does the current IUC regime retention for Reliance Jio mean? Let's find out.
Jio Customers Will Be Charged 6 Paise per Minute for Another Year
Reliance Jio made a major announcement in October 2019, saying the outgoing voice calls to other networks like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, BSNL and MTNL will be charged at six paise per minute. So even the company's unlimited plans will not offer free voice calling to other networks. This move from the company disappointed a lot of users, but ultimately, it defended the move saying the rival operators are charging six paise per minute from it which is the reason behind the implementation of new charges.
Back then, the Mukesh Ambani-led telco clearly stated it would remove the six paise charges and make the voice calls truly unlimited like before only when Trai implements zero-IUC regime. But now, the regulator has postponed the zero-IUC regime implementation by another year and it will now become effective on January 1, 2020. This essentially means the Reliance Jio customers will have to pay for off-net calls until the start of 2021.
Jio Introduces Plans With Bundled Off-Net Minutes
Reliance Jio has been a customer-centric offer. While charging users for off-net calls, it's providing 1GB of free data voucher for every Rs 10 spent by the user on IUC. For example, the Rs 10 IUC Top-Up voucher from the company also comes with 1GB of data voucher; Similarly, the Rs 100 Top-Up voucher comes with 10GB of free data. While this can be considered as a good move from Reliance Jio, the retention of IUC is still irking a lot of users.
To avoid the hassle of making users recharge IUC Top-Ups additionally, Reliance Jio introduced All-in-One prepaid plans. After the tariff revision, almost all the Jio prepaid plans starting at Rs 129 offer IUC minutes, but again, the off-net voice calling is limited. On the flip side, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are taking this as an advantage to gain subscribers.
With the latest tariff revision in December, Airtel and Vodafone Idea also imposed six paise IUC charges by keeping a FUP limit on off-net calls. But for some unknown reasons, they removed the limit and made all the prepaid plans offer unlimited voice calling without any FUP limit to any network within India.
Reliance Jio customers are surely on the back foot right now, but data has always been a priority for the LTE-only operator. For the unaware, even after the tariff revision, Jio's prepaid plans ship with better data benefit.