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Airtel & Vodafone Idea Oppose Ending of IUC Charges from 1 January

The telcos are fighting at both ends to get their way, which will appeal to mobile users in the country.

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There was an overwhelming majority who supported ending the IUC charges of 6 paisa on mobile calls termination, except two operators, Airtel and Vodafone Idea, at the open house held by Telecom Regulation Authority of India (TRAI).

The open house was attended by 155 people, including consumers from across the country. Mobile operators including Reliance Jio, BSNL and MTNL also attended.

The open house was called to discuss whether the date of 1 January, 2020 needs to be postponed to introduce the Bill and Keep (B&K) regime or not. Sources said the overwhelming majority of consumers were in favour of ending the IUC charges and it was only opposed by two operators, Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

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S.S. Sirohi, former Member (Technology), Telecom Commission, said that the sense of the house was to end the IUC charges as decided earlier from 1 January by the TRAI regulation paper of 2017.

Sirohi said that there is no need to postpone the 1 January date and the issues that have been raised in the TRAI consultation paper like traffic asymmetry and cost of calls have already been settled in the TRAI 2017 paper after wide consultations and it was decided that the B&K regime is the best regime for telecom and should be implemented at the earliest.

He said that it is surprising why this TRAI consultation paper on extending the January 1 date was circulated for grounds and questions that have already been settled, and that too it was floated in September, so close to the January 1 date, when the new regime has to be implemented.

He added that the sense of the open house was that consumers will feel disappointed if the 6 paisa charges are not abolished and it is beyond comprehension why the consultation paper was issued by TRAI.

It is hardly surprising to see both Airtel and Vodafone Idea oppose the ending of IUC charges from early 2020 onwards. Their recent quarterly results amounting to over Rs 70,000 crore (with the addition of the AGR penalty, and interest on penalty) has raised concerns about the telcos operation in the near future.

Add to that, the country’s much delayed 5G auction is unlikely to go ahead, especially at the steep prices that the government is asking for the spectrum, with the telcos unable to fund their future purchases.

This all started on 19 September 2017, when TRAI decided to slash the Interconnect Usage Charge (IUC) on wireless to wireless devices by 57 percent to just 6 paisa per minute, which was to be eventually made free post 2020.

But there have been clamours for the deadline to be extended beyond the stipulated 1 January 2020 timeline, which as of now looks highly improbable.

(With IANS inputs)

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