Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO of Bharti Airtel (India and South Asia), appeared to hit back at a recent move by rival Reliance Jio to pass interconnect usage charges (IUCs) on to customers, telling Indian media the fees had always been soaked up by operators and did not impact consumer prices.

The executive said IUCs were a long-standing arrangement between operators and levying the charge on customers would contribute little to broader tariff rises he argued are needed to ensure the future of the sector, The Economic Times (ET) reported.

Reliance Jio last week revealed it would begin passing the charge to customers after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) dropped a plan to eliminate the charges from the start of 2020.

The charge currently stands at INR0.06 (less than $0.01) per minute. Jio stated it had paid close to INR135 billion to Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea in IUCs.

But Vittal noted such payments were a two-way street, apparently playing down the significance of the charges by noting they had “always been absorbed”, ET wrote.