Three years ago, Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio barged into India's telecom scene with an offering like no other - affordable 4G internet and unlimited free calls to any network in the country.
The deal helped Jio establish its footprint and prompted other telcos to cut their tariffs. But, sadly, the company is now backing away from the promise of free calls.
Jio charging 6 paise per minute for calls
In a recent announcement, Jio detailed the plan to charge customers 6 paise/minute for voice calls.
The rate, the company said, would apply to all calls made from a Jio number to that of any other telecom company, be it Airtel, Vodafone Idea or BSNL.
So, if your friend owns an Airtel number and you're on Jio, you'll have to pay to call them.
Why Jio is taking this U-turn?
Jio's move marks a complete U-turn from the value for money deal it had promised back in 2016.
In fact, customers, who ditched their old network for Jio's offerings, are completely surprised by the latest strategy.
However, the company, on its part, claims it was 'compelled' to charge for paying Interconnect Usage Charge (IUC) to other telcos.
What is this IUC charge?
IUC is the amount paid by one telco to another when its customers make calls to those on the other company's network. It's a fee for using other company's network and was brought down from 14 paise/minute to 6 paise/minute two years ago.
High tariffs for 2G network calls have hit Jio
Jio says it has been hit by the price difference for free calls on Jio and high tariffs on 2G networks.
It said it receives 25-30 crore missed calls daily from 2G users, which then results in 65-75 crore minutes of outgoing calls and increases the IUC burden.
The company admitted to paying Rs. 13,500 crore as IUC to companies over last three years.
So, you'd have to recharge for calling other networks
That said, with the new regulation in effect, Jio would deduct 6 paise/minute from the balance of their prepaid customers and add the same into the bill of postpaid users.
The company has also introduced a few IUC plans that can be bundled with existing one/three-month recharge plans to avail free call minutes for non-Jio numbers.
What are Jio's IUC call plans?
Jio is charging an additional Rs. 10, Rs. 20, Rs. 50, and Rs. 100 for IUC plans.
This, when bundled with any regular Jio recharge plan, would give you free calls and data.
The Rs. 10 plan offers 124 minutes/1GB data, Rs. 20 gives 249 minutes/2GB, while Rs. 50 and Rs. 100 offers 656 minutes/5GB and 1,362 minutes/10GB, respectively.
Jio to Jio calls will remain free
While you'd have to pay IUC for calling other networks, Jio has assured customers that calls made on its own network would continue to remain free.
The charges for non-Jio calls would continue until the IUC is reduced to zero, something that is expected to happen on January 1, 2020 but can be delayed to a later date.