‘Phone Utha Le Re Baba’... Else It Will Be Disconnected!
Consumers are often taken for a ride by product manufacturers or service-providers. Take, for example, the fact that all mobile operators have sold you the connection under the pretext of providing 'highest fourth generation (4G) data speed'; but, in practice, we hardly get the Internet speed of a 2G connection! Some telcos have now found a new way of reducing the call ringing time (technically called as originating exchange timer—OET) to make more money and, as usual, the casualty is the customer.
It started with Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd; Bharti Airtel Ltd followed. Jio reduced the timer value to just 20 seconds from 45 seconds, citing this as optimum value to maximise usage of its spectrum.
In its submission to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Jio says, "As the spectrum is the most valuable resource of a telecom service-provider (TSP), availed at a very high market price, the TSPs should have a solemn right as well as obligation to utilise the same in the most optimum manner... in order to optimise the spectrum resources and considering the proximity of the handheld devices to the customer network resources without compromising customer experience and basis, the histogram analysis of time to answer, RJIL had implemented this timer at 20 seconds."
Without naming Jio in its response to the telecom regulator, Airtel says, reduction in the originating ringing timer has little to no impact on the network or spectrum resources and the advantages of having a higher outgoing originating timer outweigh savings, if any, on network resources.
“…if the timer values have such a significant impact on network and spectrum resources utilisation, the said operator should have resorted to reduction in incoming terminating timer as well in its network. As on date, a subscriber calling the operator’s network gets disconnected after 55-60 seconds. If resource utilisation was such a critical aspect for reduction in the originating ringing timer, the same logic should be applied to the terminating ringing timer, which has not been altered at all by that operator,” it added.
Last month, TRAI floated a consultation paper on the duration of alert for the called party under quality of service. It received 11 comments from various stakeholders, including Jio and Airtel, Vodafone Idea Ltd, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), Tata Teleservices Ltd, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Federation of Consumer and Service Organisation and Consumer Care Society, among others.
In the consultation paper, TRAI has touched upon some important points, like a possible increase in missed calls due to reduction of OET and quality of service experience for consumers.
TRAI feels that absence of any guiding principle or specific values may lead to a situation where reduction of the duration of ringing by one telecommunication service-provider for its certain advantages may cause reactions by the other service-providers in response to it by reducing the values to even more lower levels and thereby causing chain reaction.
“It is apprehended that if such chain reaction or race among service-providers happens to set lower and lower values of timers will severely impact the interests of the customers. In case of emergence of such situations, it would be difficult to arrest the fall of value below a critical point as there will not be any reference value or range of values. In view of this, it is important to consult on the issue (sic) and take appropriate measures,” it adds.
Airtel, again without naming Jio in its response to TRAI, has alleged that this move (by Jio) is "gaming of interconnect usage charge (IUC) by artificially skewing the call traffic symmetry between two networks, causing a huge loss to other operators."
"Further, due to this originating exchange timer being less than terminating exchange timer, the called party was being deprived of the facility of call forwarding feature in case of no reply and voice mail. This also resulted in gaming the IUC payouts by converting these outgoing calls to incoming calls, which is ultimately causing a huge loss of revenue to Airtel," it says, while adding that Airtel too has reduced the OET to 25 seconds on its network.
What both, Jio and Airtel, are trying is to extract more revenues from each other through subscribers. Following the free calling avalanche from Jio, all incumbent players were forced to offer free calling to subscribers. So there are no charges for making a call for subscribers.
However, when a Jio customer calls someone on Airtel network, Jio is required to pay six paise to Airtel as IUC (interconnect user charges). But when the call is terminated in less time or says 15 seconds without giving the subscriber an opportunity to pick up the call, it would show as a missed call.
Since calling is free in India, the subscriber will call back from her Airtel connection to the Jio network. In this case, Airtel will have to pay IUC to Jio.
Tiruchirapalli-based Federation of Consumer and Service Organisation feels that the normal time for OET should be kept at 15 seconds, with “reduction and increase of the time will be a choice of consumers. The ringtone may differ or fix for commercial calls.”
Consumer Care Society, from Bengaluru, has made an interesting point. It says, “The intention of the call originator is majority of the time is to have the call connected… if the call is not successful, then there would be repeated attempts made to connect, paradoxically engaging the network resources and further reducing the consumer experience.”
Time for submitting comments on TRAI’s consultation paper got over on 30 September 2019; however, counter comments can still be submitted up to 7 October 2019.