Jio will charge you for calls to other networks but Airtel and Vodafone won't— Here's why
- Vodafone-Idea and Airtel have removed all caps on unlimited outgoing calls to other networks, using Jio’s own ‘free’ strategy against it.
- Jio users will still be limited by an average of 1,000 free IUC minutes per month.
- And, the company can’t afford to not charge its customers.
Once lauded for being ‘free’, Jio’s ‘ all-in-one’ plans now only come with a limited number of IUC minutes — 1,000 minutes per month on average. Once those minutes run out, customers are charged 6 paise per minute.
Initially, Airtel and Vodafone-Idea had capped the number of IUC minutes for their plans as well. But, on Friday, they did a complete 180 — all calls would continue to be free. While it wasn’t the best news for Jio, it’s an indicator that some of the pricing power still lies in the hand of the consumer.
We heard you! And we are making the change. From tomorrow, enjoy unlimited calling to any network in India with al… https://t.co/P9TQUjlC8k— airtel India (@airtelindia) 1575639683000
Enjoy free unlimited calls to everyone. More reasons for you to rejoice for being on your favourite network. https://t.co/nqcqK8e00z— Vodafone (@VodafoneIN) 1575654295000
The tables have turned since 2017 when Airtel, Vodafone and Idea were asking the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to raise the IUC while Reliance Jio was asking that it be scrapped altogether.
"When you go below that cost, that is a very straightforward situation of predatory pricing,” Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal told ET at the time.
With Airtel and Vodafone-Idea offering unlimited free calling to other networks, Jio’s claim of offering its users four times the benefits despite a 40% increase in tariffs is undermined. Both Airtel and Jio offer a 56-day plan for ₹399 — but now Airtel’s will be considered cheaper because it doesn’t have any limits on IUC minutes.
Despite the backlash, Jio claims that the minutes it’s offering are more than enough to cover the average user. “Entitlement for off-net calls in Jio’s ‘all-in-one’ plans is more than five times of what an average customer uses as per industry data and consequently, an average Jio customer is unlikely to have to ever pay for off-net calls,” said the company.
Here’s why Jio has to charge its customers
The telecom department’s interconnect usage charge (IUC) means that a fee is owed by the network where the call originated to the network where the call was received. In a perfect world, the IUC would even out between the three players.
Instead, more than half of the calls in India originate on a Jio network, according to India Ratings. “Net incoming minutes as a proportion of total off-net voice minutes stands at negative 29% for Reliance Jio whereas the same is 9% and 19% for Airtel and Vodafone-Idea respectively,” said the report.
Simply put, the number of people calling a Jio number from the Vodafone-Idea or Airtel SIM is significantly lower than the Jio users calling people with other service providers.
So even while Vodafone-Idea and Airtel will have to bear some of the cost — they still have more to gain. And, users who have been using Jio numbers as a secondary SIM card, may start shifting back to their primary telecom operator.
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