How will Jio’s ‘6 paise/min’ move play out?

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Logos of 'LYF' device and 'Jio'. (File Photo: IANS)

New Delhi   As Reliance Jio recently announced its decision to do away with the free voice facility for inter-operator calls, both analysts and the subscribers are eager to witness the changes this move would lead to in the telecom tariffs across operators.

Analysts say tariffs could move in any direction depending on decisions of both the operators and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (trai).

“It remains to be seen whether Bharti and VIL (Vodafone Idea) follow Jio in introducing similar charges for off net calls, although we see high chance they follow Jio. There also remains a possibility that the regulatory aborts the decision to postpone zero IUC and implement the original plan,” said a UBS report.

In a consultation paper floated last month, the Trai weighed deferring the date for scrapping IUC, levied by networks handling incoming calls from rival networks. Its abolition or reduction would help operators with more outgoing traffic than incoming calls.

Reliance Jio has asked the regulator to stop the consultation process on a new timeline for removing Interconnect Usage Charges (IUC) and enforce ‘Bill and Keep’ regime under the IUC regulations from January 1, 2020.

“RJIL requests you to take note of RJIL’s objections with respect to the present Consultation Paper and hopes that you will abort the current exercise, which is not only against the interest of the industry, but also the consumers and the public at large,” it said in a letter to the Trai Secretary.

A Kotak Intstitutional Equities report observed that the impact of the decision on Bharti and Vodafone Idea is not easy to anticipate.

“Impact on Bharti and VIL isn’t as straight-forward to compute, for two reasons – (a) these two companies may or may not emulate Jio’s move completely; Bharti and VIL have an opportunity to become more competitive in select or all consumer segments if they chose to follow Jio’s move only partly. We believe the two companies should take a carefully considered and not a rushed call on this, and (b) not all of Bharti’s and VIL’s customers are on unlimited-voice bundles; the case for a price increase in their rather uncompetitive limited-voice bundles is fairly weak; not non-existent, but weak. Price increases in the postpaid segment have dynamics that go beyond IUC, anyway,” it said.

The Kotak report said that there are chances of a ‘meaningful’ increase in ARPU (average revenue per user) for both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. If the ARPU of Jio increases, that of both the other two incumbents rise, it said.

“We wouldn’t rule out a meaningful ARPU increase for Bharti and VIL, either. If Jio gets Rs 15 ARPU uplift, we believe Bharti and VIL could see a Rs 8-odd and Rs 6-odd ARPU uplift, respectively, as well,” the Kotak report said.

It said that the current traffic asummetry is likely to continue. It is perhaps prudent to assume that some shift in ‘off-out’ or ‘off-in’ imbalance in favour of Jio, it noted.

Last Week Reliance Jio announced 6 paise per minute charge for voice calls to rival networks which received criticism from the other private players.

Vodafone Idea termed the announcement “an action of undue haste” and Airtel described the Mukesh Ambani-owned company’s move a forced tactic to reduce interconnection charges.

Reliance Jio’s announcement followed its recent unilateral action of reducing ringing time.

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