New Delhi: Telecom regulator Trai has called a meeting with operators to resolve the ongoing dispute involving Reliance Jio and incumbent players such as Airtel, Vodafone and Idea over interconnecting points.
“Trai is meeting telecom operators today on the inter-connection issue,” people familiar with the matter said.
Industry body COAI — the association of telecom operators — has written to the Prime Minister’s Office stating that incumbents are “not obliged to entertain inter-connect requests” that are “anti-competitive”. It has sought PMO’s intervention on the issue to “restore fair competition”.
COAI submitted that incumbent operators are in no position by way of network or financial resources to terminate volumes of traffic that are “markedly asymmetric”. “Neither are they obliged to entertain inter-connect requests which are derived from abnormally induced traffic patterns that game the interconnection-usage charge (IUC) regime and are anti-competitive,” COAI said in the letter to the PMO.
Reliance Jio, which commercially launched its services on 5 September, has accused incumbent players like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone of not releasing sufficient inter-connection ports.
COAI director general Rajan S Mathews said that before giving inter-connection to Reliance Jio, the operators need clarity on whether the services of the new entrant are now “commercial” and if it is so, the company cannot offer free service for more than 90 days.
“Freebies cannot be extended beyond 90 days. Anything after 90 days becomes tariff. They will have to start charging customers after 90 days if they have started service commercially from September 5,” Mathews said.
On its part, Reliance Jio has said its services are free till 31 December, following which consumers will charged as per tariff plans that include free voice calls. Mathews said Trai will also have to clarify on inter-connection charge which the regulator has fixed at 14 paise, but telecom operators have challenged it in the court. “Even if they (Jio) pay me 14 paise, telecom operators will lose 16-18 paise because the call termination cost is 32 paise,” Mathews reasoned.
When network starts getting congested because of heavy traffic coming from Jio, the telecom operators will naturally have to prioritise calls, he said, adding that this is because spectrum is limited and hence, networks are not flexible to take the asymmetric load.
“The volume of calls will start congesting network and in that case, telecom operators will start losing 43-46 paise per call if their existing customer is unable to connect an outgoing call due to an incoming call from Jio network. This all needs to be seen,” Mathews explained.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) has asked Reliance Jio and other telecom operators to resolve their issue around inter-connection of mobile networks as it falls “within the purview of Trai” and is subject to “mutual agreement” of the parties concerned.
Jio has submitted to Trai that it will need 12,727 network inter-connection points for mobile services and 3,068 for STD call facility to start commercial services. It has complained that incumbent carriers have provided it less than 4% of the required ports in the first year, due to which over 65% of calls to networks of the top three operators are falling through.
However, COAI maintained that the operators provided Jio sufficient capacity to support 10 times more customer base and congestion in its network may be due to free calls and data services.
Jio has requested Trai to take action against incumbent telecom operators for purportedly denying adequate capacity leading to call failures in its network during the trial run.
COAI further said its members, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, have given 400 inter-connection ports on an average which can support 15-20 million customers using telecom services on any other network.
During the test run, Reliance Jio is providing 90 days of unlimited calling and 4G data use on its network for free. It claims to have 1.5 million subscribers during this phase. The company has set a target of achieving 100 million subscribers within a year of commercial rollout of the service.