Starting New Year’s Day, telcos in India are officially no longer required to pay each other for calls between their subscribers. The interconnect usage charge of 6 paise per minute is no longer a requirement. As such, Jio put out a press release over the holiday seeming to celebrate the move, by bragging that its customers would no longer have to pay the fee. The other telcos — Airtel and Vi — quickly sent out statements to the media (see below) clarifying that their networks had not been passing the IUC on to customers for a while, essentially meaning that Jio’s announcement was less pathbreaking and more cementing an industry practice.
At its infancy, Jio railed against the IUC, arguing that since it offered free calls to all numbers, a flat per-minute rate was unduly punishing its business model, especially with calls costing practically nothing to telcos. Legacy players resisted, moving to protect as many streams of revenue as they could in the face of Jio’s destabilising entry into the telecom market. And so TRAI had extended the practice at ₹0.06 a minute in December last year, and that requirement finally ended on January 1. Other telcos had already braced for the change, and since Jio’s penetration has made it such that the outgoing and incoming call traffic has more or less stabilised across telcos, everyone appeared to be prepared for the discontinuation of the IUC regime.
Curiously though, according to a PTI report, the discontinuation of the IUC regime may actually have a negative impact on Jio’s financials, as the telco has of late been receiving more incoming calls from other telcos than outgoing calls. Vi benefits for the opposite reason, whereas Airtel has a neutral impact, per Credit Suisse.
Vodafone Idea (Vi) statement: Vi customers have always enjoyed truly unlimited services with Vi Unlimited packs. Customers recharging with Vi Unlimited packs can continue to call their friends and family across all networks without any embargo even on calls made to other networks.
Vi customers have never had to take any additional IUC pack. Hence, Vi UL packs remain truly unlimited.
For all Vi Unlimited pack users, domestic calls to other networks anywhere in India, has always been free and will continue to be free 1st Jan 2021 onwards as well.
Airtel statement (by COO Ajai Puri): At Airtel, we are obsessed with delivering the best-in-class experience to our customers. Airtel mobile customers already enjoy unlimited free calls to all networks with our prepaid bundles and postpaid plans that also offer large dollops of high speed data. In fact, Airtel has never charged its customers separately for IUC and the unlimited calling benefits will continue for our customers without any change.