Reliance Jio Infocomm has accused Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and BSNL of ‘cheating’ by fraudulently masquerading landline numbers as mobile numbers to unfairly earn interconnect revenue. The accusation adds new twist to the ongoing telecom tussle. Here's what is making India's richest man angry.
Jio wants Trai to slap the heaviest penalties on both rivals & BSNL for flouting rules, which it claims cost the company hundreds of crores. It has also sought a refund of the termination charges it had paid the incumbents due to the alleged fraud.
How are they doing it?
Jio claims Airtel, Vodafone Idea and BSNL have implemented a process under which various enterprises are offered mobile numbers as their customer care or helpline numbers…the mobile number is used just as a virtual number for routing all such calls to call centres.The exercise the nature of the call from a mobile to wireline to a mobile to mobile which the company says is a “fraudulent attempt” to illegally extract interconnect charges at 6 paise per minute.
How is Jio getting hit?
Jio says the practice has resulted into millions of minutes originating on RJIL network getting considered as mobile terminating minutes instead of wireline termination, not only causing huge loss in hundreds of crores to RJIL and undue enrichment of Incumbent operators but to influence the Authority on the apparent traffic asymmetry between RJIL and incumbent operator.IUC is a charge paid to a telco on whose network a call terminates. But there is no IUC charge on mobile voice calls terminating on wirelines.
What does Airtel have to say?
Airtel says enterprise customers referred to by Jio transfer their call to their unique number to a fixed line or another mobile number as this is permitted by the DoT. There is no loss to originating operator as the customer always dials a mobile and not a fixed line number.
The war is not over yet...
Jio’s latest letter comes on the heels of the company slamming Trai in an earlier letter, dated October 10, calling its IUC review process a retrograde step and against consumers, which if retained, would harm mobile users and punish efficient operators. The Trai is seeking views on deferring a zero-IUC regime, which was slated to take effect from January 2020.
Jio alleged that Airtel, Voda Idea and BSNL are not only earning IUC revenue illegally but also denying the latest entrant revenue it could earn at 52 paise a minute for such calls, resulting in “undue enrichment for these incumbents at the cost of Jio”. Jio suspects thousands of such numbers are operational in the market deployed by incumbent operators.
What is IUC?
IUC has been a bone of contention among the private carriers and the telecom regulator. Two years ago, Trai had cut it down from 14 paise a minute to 6 paise a minute and decided to scrap it from January 2020, a timeline which the regulator is reviewing now. This in fact prompted Jio to start charging its users for voice calls made to rivals’ networks, to account for the IUC it pays out.