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Airtel, Vodafone cut ringer time to 25 seconds to counter Jio

Telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have slashed ring time on outgoing calls from their network to 25 seconds to counter a similar move by Jio and plug losses amid a high decibel feud over the issue.

According to Economic Times, Bharti Airtel has reduced ring duration across its network while Vodafone Idea has done it in some circles. In the past 24 hours, the ringer time for all outgoing calls from Bharti Airtel’s network to Jio and Vodafone Idea has been shortened to about 25 seconds, Bharti Airtel executives told ET. Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have alleged that Jio had cut ring time to 20 seconds — subsequently increased to 25 seconds in some circles earlier this week — to elicit a return call from its rivals in a bid to manipulate the IUC regime. A shorter ring before disconnection may spur recipients to call back the number.

Airtel, in its letter, rued that while its decision to cut call ring time, in response to a similar move by Jio, may cause customer inconvenience, the company was left with no choice in the absence of a firm directive from the regulator despite repeated industry representations. The company said cutting the ring time would also help it in plugging further losses on Interconnect Usage Charges (IUC). Airtel, in the letter dated September 28, informed TRAI secretary that the company has reduced the ringing timer to 25 seconds on its network "as well". Originally the operators had a ring time of 45 seconds but Airtel had earlier accused Jio of arbitrarily slashing the ring duration. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had asked the warring operators to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution over the dispute until it concludes a formal consultation on the matter.

The Sunil Mittal-led firm lamented that despite repeated requests for last 7-8 weeks, "TRAI has neither directed Reliance Jio to restore the timer to its original value nor issued any general direction to all operators to set the timer to 30 seconds as proposed by majority of operators during the meetings".

Airtel argued, the reduction in the ringing timer by Jio also deprives the called party the facility of call forwarding feature in case of 'no reply and voice mail', besides "gaming the IUC payouts by converting these outgoing calls to incoming calls, which is ultimately causing a huge loss of revenue to Airtel". Late last month, as the contentious IUC issue came back on the regulator's radar, the industry -- polarised over the issue -- erupted into a war of words. Airtel accused Reliance Jio of "gaming" the system of paying for calls to rival network, and Jio returned fire arguing that incumbents are charging high voice tariffs and manipulating the system to the detriment of their users.

A telecom operator pays for connecting calls of its subscribers to the company on whose network a call terminates. Currently, an operator is required to pay 6 paise per minute as mobile call termination charge, called IUC. The IUC was originally proposed to be made nil from January 1, 2020.