Reliance Jio Infocomm has started charging for voice calls made to subscribers of other telcos to account for the termination charges it pays its rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, a move which some analysts say can possibly herald a tariff rise in the telecom sector after years of brutal competition.
In a statement Wednesday, the Mukesh Ambani-led telco, which had promised to keep all voice calls free, said it was “compelled” to start charging its over 350 million users to recover the 6 paise a minute interconnect usage charge (IUC) it pays to other telcos, till the regulator brings the fee down to zero. But it will compensate its users by giving additional data, to ensure no “effective increase” in tariffs for its customers. Calls from Jio to Jio, to landlines and those made over apps such as WhatsApp will remain free
All Jio customers who want to make a voice call to either Vodafone Idea or Airtel will have to buy additional top-up vouchers of Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 and Rs 100, for additional IUC minutes.
SBICap Securities’ head of research Rajiv Sharma said Jio’s decision to recover IUC from consumers may have a
cascading effect in pushing up tariffs indirectly. “Airtel and Vodafone Idea could easily respond to Jio’s move by hiking voice rates, finally ending the era of free voice tariffs,” he said.
A senior industry executive said Jio’s move gave the other two telcos a good opportunity to raise tariffs as well.
IIFL Securities executive vice president Sanjiv Bhasin said Jio’s move was good for the beleaguered telecoms sector as ARPUs and tariffs could finally start looking up after being at ‘unsustainable levels’ for a prolonged period.
Jio will provide following top-up vouchers for customers:
|IUC Top-Up Voucher Amount (Rs)||IUC Minutes (non-Jio mobiles)||Free Data Entitlement (GB)|