Government gives clean chit to Reliance Jio free voice and data packages

Amidst speculations, the government has given a clean chit to Reliance Jio Infocomm by stating that the company did not violate any of the rules pertaining to free voice services. The existing providers had petitioned the ministry by stating that Jio has violated rules by offering services free of cost.

Responding to a query tabled in Parliament by Odisha MP Tathagata Satpathy, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha disclosed that since the guidelines/NIA for allocation or auction of the spectrum do not prescribe the rates at which services are to be provided to customers, the question of violation of guidelines for spectrum allocation does not arise.

It is to be said that the currently operating mobile service companies had complained that by offering services below the minimum interconnect cost of 14 paise per minute is in violation of rules. They added that Reliance Jio has seriously violated the Telecom Tariff order.

With the government giving a clean chit to Reliance Jio, the path is now open for an imminent extension of free services till March 31, 2017. Previously, it was said that the preview offer will be applicable only until December 31, 2016.

The Telecom minister comments in tune with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), which recently ruled that Reliance Jio had not violated any orders. The regulator stated that the tariff plans filed with Trai “cannot be considered as IUC non-complaint, predatory and discriminatory.”

In October, Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Telenor had complained to Trai about the Reliance Jio’s free voice and data packs. They argued that the rates are well below the market prices. Hence, they are predatory in nature and contravene the regulator’s Telecom Tariff Order (TTO) of 2004.

Technically, Telecom providers are required to pay 14 paise per minute for each outgoing call from their network to another network on which the call lands. This is called as Interconnection Usage Charge (IUC).

Ruling out any kind of violation by Reliance Jio, the Telecom ministry is of the view that the current tariff rates are based on the principles of forbearance. This allows great flexibility to providers to enable them to decide various tariff plans or products for different services.

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