TRAI introduced Bill and Keep: Avoiding theInterconnect Usage Charge of Telecom Operators

The telecom industry changed the interconnect usage charge (IUC) from the new year. The IUC charged has been made zero by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) from January 1, 2021. The operators should not have to pay six paise per minute for the other operators’ outgoing calls. This zero termination rate by TRAI is known as bill and keep. Reliance Jio was only the operator who took this charge from the customers. But after this new move, Jio announced that they would no longer levy any charge for this further.

 The development would create a symmetry between the incoming and outgoing calls for all operators. Earlier, when Airtel and Vodafone Idea were having symmetry in their incoming and outgoing calls, Jio’s number of outgoing calls was more than their incoming calls. It doesn’t make any balance to their revenue. During June 2019, Jio’s off-net outgoing call was more than other networks, but it changed in 2020 when TRAI extended the IUC charges for one more year. Simultaneously, Airtel and Vodafone-Idea were against the abolition of IUC charges until the number of incoming and outgoing calls was nearly equal for each telecom. Anyway, Airtel and Vodafone’s income increased as the number of incoming calls was more for them.

TRAI introduced the IUC charges on voice calls in 2004. The charge was 30 paise per minute under the calling-party-pays on all types of calls irrespective of the distance. In 2008, the charges were revised downwards to 20 paise per minute. Then it was reduced to 14 paise per minute for mobile-to-mobile calls, later to 0 paise for other call types (mobile-to-landline, landline-to-mobile, landline-to-landline). The companies can focus on upgrading their networks and service with the end of IUC charges. The latest move may not significantly impact the providers who sold unlimited call packs even earlier. Still, there was an impact on the subscriber who had to pay higher access tariffs on one wireless network due to the IUC system. By this move, the imbalance within the operators can be reduced.

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