With the announcement that Reliance Jio is no longer offering free and unlimited voice calls for its subscribers for calls made to other mobile networks, there is bound to be a reaction from Jio users who may be worried what this means for them. And the telecom industry as a whole. Reliance Jio says they will now charge Rs 0.06 per minute for calls made by subscribers using a Jio connection, which terminate on another mobile network such as Airtel, Vodafone-Idea or BSNL, for instance. That means the local and STD calls from Jio to other mobile networks is no longer free and unlimited, unlike the tariff plans we had thus far for prepaid and postpaid. However, before you worry, Jio has announced new top-up vouchers which offer a predefined number of voice calls to other mobile networks and additional data as well.
The Rs 10 top-up voucher offers 124 minutes of non-IUC calls to non-Jio mobiles along with 1GB free additional data. The Rs 20 top-up voucher bundles 249 minutes of calls along with 2GB of data, the Rs 50 voucher offers 656 minutes of calls to other mobile networks and 5GB of data while the Rs 100 voucher allows for 1,362 minutes of calls along with 10GB of additional data. These top-up packs will sit over and above your usual recharge or billing plan, to take advantage of the free calls these packs bundle—if you add any of these packs to your existing subscription, you will not be charged 6 paise per minute for these calls.
Reliance Jio also clarifies that the Rs 0.06 per minute charge will not apply on any Jio to Jio voice calls, any and all incoming calls on a Jio mobile connection, calls made from your Jio connection to a landline and data calls made for voice or video using apps such as WhatsApp and Apple FaceTime.
The Interconnect Usage Charge or IUC is a tariff paid by one mobile telecom operator to another, when the customers of one mobile network make outgoing mobile calls to another operator’s mobile network, that is to their friends and family using the other mobile network. For example, if person A is to make a call from a Reliance Jio connection to Person B using an Airtel mobile connection, Reliance Jio will have to pay Rs 0.60 per minute to Airtel for the call—because the call landed on the Airtel network. These calls between two different networks are known as mobile off-net calls, as defined by the TRAI. The IUC charges are fixed by the TRAI at Rs 0.60 per minute.
Till now, Reliance Jio had been paying the IUC charge to other operators even though they were offering unlimited voice calls to users, irrespective of the network they were calling to, for local calls and STD calls. Reliance Jio says that this new tariff will stay in place till the IUC tariffs are abolished in January 2020. “So far, in the last three years Jio has paid nearly Rs.13,500 crore as NET IUC charges to the other operators,” says Jio in an official statement.
It is expected that the IUC charges will be removed for all operators come January 2020, which could see this tariff change being reversed. Till then, could we see the likes of Airtel and Vodafone-Idea also implement these charges for existing customers?