Cellular industry body COAI has alleged that operators citing TRAI’s 2011 affidavit in the Supreme Court to push for scrapping call termination charge are attempting to “distort facts”, creating false impression among the public. The claim comes amid ongoing review by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) of the call connect charges, a contentious issue between incumbent operators like Airtel, Vodafone and Idea and newcomer Reliance Jio.
Telecom firms levy interconnection usage charges or IUC on incoming calls from the network of the other operator, and these termination charges are currently 14 paise per minute. Jio has favoured levying no charge on incoming calls.
Any increase in termination charge would help incumbent operators as they tend to receive more incoming calls, especially from networks where voice calls are free. Incumbents, on the other hand, contest that terminating incoming calls on their networks costs 30-35 paise per minute.
Under the ‘Bill and Keep’ or BAK regime, the operators only keep record of incoming calls on their network but don’t raise any demand from other operators. COAI has alleged that arguments by “few participants” in favour of the bill and keep model, “highlighting that TRAI should implement BAK to comply with its affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court is an attempt to distort facts to mislead and create a false impression among the public at large”.
In its latest letter dated July 22 to TRAI, COAI has also noted that many participants at the open house discussion claimed that in the year 2011, TRAI concluded to implement BAK regime in two years.
“Treating this affidavit, that has been filed in an ongoing litigation, equivalent to a regulation; these participants have been demanding the implementation of the BAK regime”, it added. COAI, however, stopped short of naming the operators.
“It is clearly evident that TRAI in its affidavit submitted to the SC had listed symmetry of traffic as a pre-condition to implement the ‘Bill and Keep’ regime,” Rajan S Mathews, director general of COAI claimed in the letter.
“TRAI, while framing IUC 2015 took into consideration the current levels of traffic asymmetry and found it not suitable for implementation of ‘Bill and Keep’. Therefore, it again rejected the implementation of ‘Bill and Keep’ in 2015 regulation,” Mathews said. COAI letter also clarified that Aircel and Reliance Jio have “divergent views” and that they will “represent individually” on the issue.