Asked by regulator TRAI to explain high level of call failures, incumbent operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea have cited free voice calls offered by Reliance Jio as the reason for heavy network congestion. The three companies made this submission in reply to showcause notice by TRAI, which is now in the process of examining them and is likely to take a view in a week, sources told PTI.
“TRAI has received replies from Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular. In their response, the operators have highlighted that the free voice calls by Reliance Jio is prompting people to use more minutes, thus leading to an increased traffic at the interconnection points,” sources added. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea declined to respond to e-mail queries sent to them.
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Sources further said the incumbent operators have also taken the stand that termination charge of 14 paise per minute prescribed under the present IUC regime is low and that they are incurring increasing costs due to the high level of traffic asymmetry.
The operators have also asked TRAI to examine the alleged violation of the telecom tariff order by Reliance Jio. Late last month, as row between incumbents and newcomer Reliance Jio escalated, Trai had intervened and issued showcause notices to telecom operators for call drops far exceeding the norm. It had given operators ten days to explain why action should not be initiated against them for violation of service quality norms.
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Over the last few months, Reliance Jio has clashed with incumbent operators over network connectivity or interconnection. Interconnection enables mobile users to make calls to customers of other telecom networks and is, therefore, crucial for smooth functioning of mobile services. Jio has accused incumbent operators of providing far less than adequate points of interconnections (PoIs) needed for its users to complete a call to a rival network, while the operators have charged the newcomer of unleashing a “tsunami” of free traffic on their networks.
Jio has announced that its customers will enjoy free voice calls for life, while data, currently free, would be available at a fraction of the prevailing market rates post December 31. In a statement issued on September 23, the company had alleged that over 12 crore calls failed daily between Jio and the networks of Airtel, Vodafone and Idea. As per quality of service rules, not more than five calls in 1,000 should fail due to network congestion.