In a big help to cash trapped Vodafone Idea and Airtel, the Indian telecom watchdog Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has deferred from implementing the zero Interconnect Usage Charges (IUC) charges be a year or until 31st December 2020. Thus according to the new plan, interconnection usage fees would be scrapped only from 1st January 2021.
IUC or Interconnect Usage Charge is a cost paid by one telecom operator to another when its subscriber makes outgoing voice calls to the other operator’s customers. Currently, IUC charges are capped at 6 paise per minute by the telecom authority.
It needs to be noted that, TRAI has earlier planned to implement the zero IUC regime from 1st January 2020. But Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) which has Vodafone Idea and Airtel as its members demanded an extension to this. Thus, the regulator floated a consultation paper in September 2019 to seek stakeholders’ view on zeroing the interconnection usage fees. There was also an Open House discussion regarding the same in November 2019 in New Delhi. Based on all these discussions and comments, the move to zero IUC regime will now only happen on 1st January 2021.
The worst part in all this would be Reliance Jio customers, who need to pay the 6 paise per minute for calling to another telco. Jio would continue charging its users until the end of next year. But we could expect some new mobile plans from the telco, that would compensate for the extra charge levied.