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Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea to increase call and data charges

A telecom tower

Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea will increase mobile phone call charges and data charges, the companies said in statements. While Jio will revise tariffs in the coming weeks, Airtel and Vodafone Idea will revise prices from December 1. Jio said an appropriate increase in tariffs will come in a manner “that will not adversely impact data consumption or growth in digital adoption and sustain investments”.

The tariff revisions come after the Supreme Court’s directive on Adjusted Gross Revenue, wherein the telecos have to pay Rs 92,640 crores to the Centre, which includes disputed demand, interest and penalty. When telecom lobby Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) wrote to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) last month, seeking its intervention in the SC’s judgment, Jio was critical of it. It said that Airtel and Vodafone’s financial difficulties were their own doing and an effect of their own commercial decisions.

TRAI to initiate consultation process: Jio and Vodafone-Idea noted in their respective statements that before the hike becomes applicable to its users, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is likely to initiate a consultation process for this revision in telecom tariffs.

‘2-G mukt’ policy: In a statement directed towards Airtel and Vodafone who still operate 2G networks, Jio asked the government and the regulator to mandate a ‘2G-Mukt’ policy to achieve the objectives of Digital India.

Jio brings in Interconnect Usage Charges

Last month, Jio began charging Interconnect Usage Charges (IUC), which meant that Jio customers had to pay 6 paise/minute for all voice calls made to other network operators. Airtel and Vodafone Idea do not charge IUC from their customers. These charges were made applicable on October 10, and will continue until TRAI reduces these IUC charges to zero, which is expected in January 2020. It is important to note that IUC is the price paid by one mobile telecom operator to another when its customers make outgoing mobile calls to the other operator’s customers; these charges are fixed by TRAI.

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The move came after the TRAI released a consultation paper in September, seeking industry views on whether the IUC charge removal should be deferred from January 1, 2020 deadline because of the high continued inter-operators’ asymmetry. The paper also asked what parameters should be looked at to decide on an alternate date, if any, for the IUC charge removal.

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