Reliance Jio’s reference of Trai’s IUC affidavit attempt to distort facts: COAI
The war over call termination charges continues to simmer, with the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) writing to the telecom regulator that Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, which has referred to a six-year-old court affidavit filed by the regulator to support its case for scrapping these charges, is trying to “distort facts to mislead and create false impression among public at large”.
Reliance Jio is pressing for a so-called Bill-and-Keep model, wherein interconnect user charges or IUC (paid by the telco from which a call originates to the telco which receives the call) will be effectively scrapped. Rivals Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone India Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd, on the other hand, want these charges raised to at least 30 paise per call from 14 paise now.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had filed an affidavit in Supreme Court in 2011 favouring the Bill-and-Keep model. In the clash over call termination charges, Reliance Jio has referred to this affidavit to support its case.
However, in a 22 July letter, COAI—dominated by Jio’s rivals—said the affidavit had insisted on “symmetry of traffic” before implementing the Bill-and-Keep model. Also, the letter added, while framing the call termination charges in 2015, the regulator took note of the traffic asymmetry and decided against its implementation. Moreover, the Supreme Court in April 2012 dismissed Trai’s application to notify these charges on the basis of the affidavit, and therefore it has no relevance today, it added. Mint has seen a copy of the letter.
“During the formation of IUC Regulation, 2015, Trai deliberated the feasibility of implementation of ‘Bill-and- Keep’ regime at length and consequently rejected the implementation due to the reason that the level of traffic imbalance/asymmetry did not fulfil the basic requirement of symmetry before adopting ‘Bill-and-Keep’ regime,” the lobby group said in the letter.
COAI also told Trai that Aircel and Reliance Jio, which are also members of COAI,have different views on the matter and they would represent individually on the subject.
R.S. Sharma, Trai chairman, did not respond to phone calls or text messages on Sunday.
Smaller operators and Jio are against IUC. On a net basis, established operators with more users and bigger networks tend to earn more from IUC, while newer and smaller ones find it a burden.
In a presentation to Trai on Tuesday, Reliance Jio claimed India’s top three telcos have generated as much as Rs1.04 trillion in revenue in the past five years on account of non-implementation of a 2011 Trai road map to cut the charges to zero. It was referring to the 2011 report by Trai, that was also filed as a court affidavit. In the affidavit, Trai told the court it wanted to bring down IUC to zero from March 2015. This road map was also part of 2009 Trai regulation on IUC that excluded capital cost while calculating the charge.