New Delhi: India Inc titans Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries and Sunil Mittal of Bharti Enterprises will be missing in attendance at the largest stage of the country’s telecom sector — India Mobile Congress.
The two have managed to draw crowds at the first two editions of the expo in 2017 and 2018 where they shared stage and addressed each other as ‘dear friends’.
The three-day India Mobile Congress, which is the country’s attempt to showcase it as a vibrant telecom market and woo investors, starts on Monday.
Mittal and Ambani are expected to give the expo a miss at a time when their telecom companies engage in a fresh battle over interconnect usage charges.
Ambani’s Reliance Jio and Mittal’s Bharti Airtel last week again locked horns over the interconnect usage charge.
The fresh war of words between the two operators erupted when last week Jio, India’s only profitable telecom operator, said it will start charging for calls made to rival networks at 6 paise a minute, reneging on a promise to keep voice calls free for its customers.
Jio said it “had been compelled most reluctantly and unavoidably" to do this following the decision of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to review the date for scrapping interconnect usage charge (IUC) from 1 January 2020, which has led to regulatory uncertainty.
Jio’s move came three weeks after Trai on 18 September floated a fresh consultation paper to see if there is a need to revise the applicable date for scrapping IUC, given the continuing imbalance in inter-operator traffic.
IUC, which has been set at 6 paise a minute, is levied by mobile networks handling incoming calls from rival networks.
Scrapping IUC or reducing it would benefit an operator with more outgoing traffic than incoming calls. As of June-end, 64% of Jio’s total traffic was outgoing.
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea would stand to gain if Trai decides to postpone the date of scrapping IUC as these telecom operators get more incoming calls than outgoing.
immediately after Jio’s announcement to charge for calls, Bharti Airtel, without naming Jio, said that one of its competitors suggested that Trai reopen this issue, while the regulator had in September 2017 already said it might undertake an exercise to revisit the matter at a later date.
“Clearly, this off net charge being levied, therefore, is to force IUC to be brought down despite the heavy burden it puts in the receiving network. We are grateful that this very timely consultation paper to reassess IUC has been issued by Trai," Airtel had then said.
Meanwhile, Jio has said these charges will only continue till the time the regulator abolishes IUC.