Reliance Jio on Thursday announced that it would once again make off-net domestic voice calls free on its network starting January 1, 2021. The operator will restart its earlier practice over a year after it started charging its subscribers 6 paise a minute to make voice calls to other mobile networks. The fresh decision came as a result of the ‘Bill and Keep’ regime that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is implementing in the country from January 1 that will end interconnect usage charges (IUC) for all domestic voice calls.
With the update, subscribers on Jio will be able to make free voice calls to any mobile network in the country — just like other telcos. This is likely to make the competition tougher for other telcos including Airtel and Vi (formerly Vodafone Idea) as Jio will be able to offer more competitive recharge plans. Other operators will also no longer get any charges from Jio for terminating voice calls from its network.
In September 2019, the TRAI extended the timeline for implementing the Bill and Keep regime beyond January 1, 2020. That extension resulted in the arrival of the six-paise outgoing call charge on Jio for other mobile networks in October last year.
Jio at that time claimed that due to bearing IUC, which operators needed to pay for enabling off-net voice calls on their networks, it had paid nearly Rs. 13,500 crores to other operators in the last three years. It had also mentioned after the interconnect charges came into place in 2017, other telcos continued to charge “exorbitant tariffs” and increased their tariffs for voice calls to around Rs. 1.50 per minute.
However, unlike Jio, other operators favoured IUC as it emerged as one of their main sources of income. A large number of Jio users also criticised the telco’s move to start charging for voice calls. It tried to put some criticism to rest by launching dedicated IUC vouchers following the announcement of off-net voice call charges on its network last year.
It is important to point out that while Jio started charging users for making voice calls to other networks, it continued to offer free Jio-to-Jio voice calls — thanks to VoIP support on its network.
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5G Services to Be Rolled Out in a Month, Development of Indigenous 6G Stack in Progress, MoS Telecom Says
The long-awaited high-speed 5G services are expected to be rolled out in about a month, Minister of State for Telecom Devusinh Chauhan said on Monday. Addressing the inaugural event of the International Telecommunication Union’s Regional Standardisation Forum (RSF) for Asia and Oceania region, Chauhan said India is likely to deploy indigenously developed and manufactured 5G telecom gears by end of this year for 5G services.
“In about a month, 5G mobile services will roll out in the country, which will have multiplier effects on the development of all sectors. A 6G Technology Innovations Group, has also been set up, which is working towards the development of indigenous 6G stack,” Chauhan said.
He said that the government is promoting, the indigenously designed, developed and manufactured advanced telecom technology, and as a result, India today has a strong home-grown 5G mobile communications ecosystem.
“We have developed a fully indigenous 5G test bed, which will facilitate testing of 5G network elements. By the end of this year, we are likely to see indigenously developed, and manufactured 5G stack, getting deployed in rolling out 5G network in India,” the minister said.
India’s biggest ever auction of telecom spectrum that concluded on August 1 received a record Rs 1,59,100 crore worth of bids, with Mukesh Ambani’s Jio cornering nearly half of all the airwaves sold with an Rs 88,078 crore bid.
The minister said that the growth in the Indian telecom market has been spurred by the market-friendly government policies.
“We initiated a number of structural and procedural reforms in the telecom sector. These reforms have created a very positive, and forward-looking environment for the telecom industry. As a result, a recent 5G spectrum auction in India has fetched bids of $20 billion (roughly Rs 1,59,100 crore),” Chauhan said.
He said that Indian engineers have developed a set of 5G standards, which will facilitate the spread of the 5G network in rural areas.
The Department of Telecommunications also hosted an exhibition at the forum venue to showcase various indigenously developed digital products and services of India.
TRAI Seeks Views on Big Data, AI Adoption to Improve Telecom Services, Enhance Network Security
Telecom regulator TRAI on Friday floated a consultation paper to seek public views on the adoption of artificial intelligence and big data to improve telecom services and enhance network securities and efficiencies. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in its consultation paper on “Leveraging artificial intelligence and Big Data in the telecommunication sector” has sought views on sectors where existing and future capabilities of the telecom networks can be used to leverage AI (artificial intelligence) and BD (big data).
The consultation paper follows a reference to the regulator from the Department of Telecom in June 2019 in which the department has sought recommendation from TRAI on leveraging AI and BD in a synchronised and effective manner to enhance the overall quality of service, spectrum management, network security and reliability.
The regulator has sought opinion on risks in the adoption of AI and BD, such as unethical use, bias in data and algorithms, privacy, model instability, regulatory and legal non-compliance, as well as ways and mechanisms to mitigate risks.
TRAI has fixed September 16 as the last date for comment on the paper and September 30 for counter comments.
Back in June, TRAI chairman P D Vaghela urged telecom companies and Wi-Fi providers to work collaboratively on developing innovative business models that would unleash combined power of mobile and Wi-Fi technology to improve digital infrastructure.
He called upon telecom service providers and Wi-Fi hotspot providers to work together and come up with India-specific business models.
Studies have found that in 5G countries such as South Korea, the UK, the US, Japan, Australia and Germany, smartphone users on average consumed between 1.7 and 2.7 times more mobile data after the introduction of fifth-generation services, as compared to 4G.
Over 5 Crore Complaints Received Against Telcos Over Mobile Services in FY22, MoS Communications Says
More than five crore complaints were received against telecom operators related to mobile services during 2021-22, with about 54 per cent of them against Airtel, followed by Vodafone Idea, Parliament was informed on Friday. Minister of State for Communications Devusinh Chauhan, in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, gave data on complaints received against various telecom service providers related to mobile telephony during 2021-22, as per which the number for Airtel stood at 2,99,68,519, and for Vodafone Idea at 2,17,85,460.
The number of such complaints against Reliance Jio was 25.8 lakh.
In all, nearly 5.5 crore complaints related to cellular mobile telephone services were registered by consumers through helpline numbers of operators at complaint centres during 2021-22.
The number of complaints against state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) stood at 8.8 lakh and 48,170 respectively.
“The complaints received at complaint centres through customer helpline numbers are resolved by the concerned service provider,” the minister said.
Where the complaints are not resolved by the service providers, the complainant can approach the public grievance wing of the Department of Telecommunications. All the grievances so received are monitored and resolved through the Centralised Public Grievance Redressal and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) portal.
“The number of grievances received during 2021-22 through CPGRAMS portal was 58911, out of which 58,224 were resolved,” the minister added.
To another question, Chauhan said the number of BSNL customers who opted for network port out stood at 52.3 lakh in 2021-22, while the subscribers porting in were at 28.8 lakh.
Stiff competition in the telecom sector drove both port in and port out for BSNL, he added.
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