Incumbent operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea Cellular on Thursday once again clashed with Reliance Jio over mobile termination charge (MTC) at an open house session convened by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. While both sides reiterated their stand — incumbents for hiking MTC and Jio for making it zero — the incumbents charged Jio for passing its cost on them to make its voice services free.
In a statement, Bharti said that by proposing a transition to bill and keep (BAK) with zero MTC, Jio wants to transfer its cost to other operators, which as per current estimates is to the tune of Rs 15,000–20,000 crore annually and will increase going forward. It also said that barring four countries, the calling party pays (CPP) regime is the globally accepted norm. In the four countries where MTC is zero, the customer pays for incoming calls. “However, nowhere in the world do we have a situation where incoming calls are free and MTC is also zero,” it added.
During the discussion, the incumbent operators said that MTC should be based on the cost of the network on which the calls are coming. They also stressed that while deciding on IUC, the critical element of traffic symmetry should also be addressed. On the BAK model, the incumbents said that it does not address the issue of asymmetric traffic, which is impacting their operations after Jio’s launch. Besides, under the BAK the best network becomes an incoming call network.
The incumbents also said that scrapping IUC will impact the coverage in rural areas as the customers there usually have low paying capacity, which is reflected in low average revenue per user (ARPUs). Reliance Jio said using traffic asymmetry is like penalising an operator who has invested on more efficient technology. Traffic asymmetry will occur when a new operator comes into the market, however as the system matures, this asymmetry minimises. It also said that all the major telecom operators are in the process of launching VoLTE, under which the cost of providing a call is around 0.7-0.8 paise, then why should the charges be based on an old technology?
The session also saw participation from Members of Parliament Ninong Ering, Prem Singh Chandumajra and YV Subba Reddy from Lok Sabha and Majeed Memon and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy from Rajya Sabha. All the MPs advocated BAK model and scrapping of the charge in favour of the consumers.