Can Reliance Jio Legally Offer Free Voice Calls? Rule Says Tariff Cannot Be Below Interconnect Charges!
Reliance Jio’s much touted ‘Free Voice Call’ offer is now under attack, due to the legality of the same. Telecom Authority of India (TRAI) has questioned Jio over their free calls offer, and demanded an explanation.
As per reports emerging, officials are now discussing the issue, and Jio will soon come out with a clarification. Another set of reports state that Jio may alter the tariffs in the coming weeks, most probably after the ‘Welcome Offer’ is over.
Confusion Over Free Calls By Jio
There are mainly two aspects which is creating confusion in the minds of subscribers and TRAI, in regards to Jio’s free voice call offer.
The first is the ambiguity in the plans and tariffs filed by Jio with the regulator. As per the filing, Jio is offering a tariff of 2 paisa per second or Rs 1.20 per minute for outgoing calls. Besides, in the SIM Card brochure provided to new customers, the same Rs 1.20 per minute call tariff is mentioned.
On the other hand, in the marketing campaigns and press statements, Jio is emphasizing on the fact that they are providing free voice calls for all customers, a move which has triggered mass subscriptions and new users, and causing stress for other telecom providers.
The other issue is that, as per TRAI’s rules, no telecom operator can provide tariff which is less than Interconnect User Charges (IUC), which is currently 14 paisa per minute.
As per tariff framework announced by TRAI titled ‘The Telecommunication Interconnection Usage Charges (IUC) Regulation, 2003 (1 of 2003)’ which was issued on January 24, 2003 and made effective May 1st, 2003, this rule was mandated by law.
In 2004, the regulator modified the earlier framework, and introduced distance based IUC, which was later freezed at 20 paisa per minute; and in 2015, reduced to 14 paisa per minute.
Now, if this is a law, then Jio cannot offer free voice calls; atleast 14 paisa needs to be charged from customers because that’s the amount which Jio will pay to that telecom operator where the call is made by a Jio user.
Are Jio’s Calls Really Free?
As we had shared earlier, Jio is using VoLTE technology to enable voice calls using 4G internet. Hence, technically, Jio is only offering what WhatsApp or Messenger is offering to its app users – an ability to call using Internet as a medium.
This is the reason that if a Jio user has a LTE handset, he only use it to access data services from Jio. In order to make calls, the user needs to have a VoLTE based handset or an LTE handset with JioJoin app.
In case a user disables data on Jio network, then it means that the phone has been switched to a mode which is similar to airplane mode – no calls can be made or data can be used.
Interestingly, Jio has already informed that data usage pertaining to voice calls would not be deducted from the monthly data plan.
The question of Interconnect User Charge is still open-ended, as Jio has to pay IUC when a call terminates on another telecom’s network; and Jio is neither charging data nor any separate voice call charge for the same.
Competitors are crying foul, as such free voice calls violates all anti-competition laws, and TRAI rules.
We will keep you updated as more details come in..