Bharti Airtel launches VoLTE service in Mumbai

Airtel and Jio are levelling allegations on each other over interconnection usage charges- a tariff levied by a telecom operator on incoming calls from other networks and the charges are passed on to subscribers

Airtel's letter came in a rebuttal to a letter dated September 11 from Jio to the regulator, alleging that Airtel was creating a "smokescreen to hide its ill-gotten profits and to support its false pretence of loss under the existing IUC regime".

Airtel in an investor presentation said that the Indian telecomindustry is consolidating towards three main players-Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular's Merged Company and new entrant Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio). Airtel's outgoing tariffs for off-net calls clearly shows a premium that it charges from its customers to compensate for the IUC that it would pay to other operators. "Which operator pays IUC charge on the on-net calls".

IUC is a fee that a destination network charges to the source network for connecting and ending a call from the source network. This comes at a time when Jio is set to deliver a low-priced 4G feature phone called JioPhone to customers. In its letter to Sharma, Jio said, "Airtel, in its submission, has deliberately ignored the fact that its payout towards IUC is recovered by it from its customers, as evident from its retail voice tariff".

Another was Jio's allegations that incumbents had benefitted by nearly Rs 1 lakh crore in last five years due to non-implementation of the Trai affidavit to the Supreme Court about moving to a bill and keep (B&K) regime by 2014, which would have scrapped the IUC. In the presentation, without naming telecom firms, Jio said that operator 1 gained Rs 46,958 crore, operator 2 Rs 28,904 crore and operator 3 Rs 28,752 crore and the IUC should now be made nil to lower cost of mobile call rates.

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Airtel alleged that Reliance Jio has been completely non-transparent, and has not shared its IUC model with all stakeholders till now and yet, they continue to exaggerate and distort figures for incumbent telecom operators who have transparently shared the costing models. "Therefore, Jio's calculation is blatantly misleading with a false calculation to inflate the numbers".

"This is nothing but a part of RJio's sinister campaign aimed at misleading the authorities and public at large during the ongoing IUC consultation process. We urge the authority not to be swayed by such falsehoods". The industry has also seen unlimited voice packs-SIM consolidation and increased interest in digital content, said the operator.

Bharti has said the termination cost of 30 paise per minute has been calculated on the basis of fully allocated cost (FAC) methodology (including capex), which the regulator has "never accepted", and in the last IUC regulations (in 2015), Trai had indicated that there is no case for considering FAC, Jio said.

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