Dec 13, 2008

India - TRAI to intervene if SMS tariff not slashed

NEW DELHI: TRAI chairman Nripendra Misra has warned telecom operators that the regulator would be forced to intervene if they did not slash SMS
charges and address issues related to call drops.

“The request for SMS tariff reduction has been pending with the operators since almost a year. This is the time when we feel the need to intervene. If telcos do not act, we will float a consultation paper soon in this regard,” Mr Misra told reporters on the sidelines of an industry meet.

TRAI had earlier made several appeals to the telecom operators to reduce SMS tariffs in a phased manner, but operators have so far failed to reduce SMS tariffs. Along with the SMS tariff issue, TRAI will also look into the current billing system, which is done on a per minute basis.

This implies if a call is disconnected in 15 seconds, the user will pay on a per second basis only. At present, billing is done on a per minute basis — that is, even a 15 second call is treated as a 1-minute call and billed for the same. “Caller must pay for the time used for the service and not for the whole minute,” Mr Misra said.

TRAI sources say that the regulator has been forced to take up this issue on account of the increasing number of call drops experienced by customers.

Call drops, which happens when the call is disconnected due to network related issues such as congestion and spectrum crunch, is amongst the major problems experienced by consumers. Lashing out at the operators over call drops, Mr Mishra said,

“The issue is a matter of concern and has to be addressed soon. The consumer cannot be allowed to suffer due to this.” The regulator also plans to come out with another consultation paper this month on call termination charges. The government last month had asked the regulator to review the five-year-old termination charges for fixed and mobile telephony.

An operator on whose network a call originates pays termination charge to the operator on whose network the call terminates. Currently, a 30 paise charge is levied on operators as termination charges.

The present termination charge of 30 paise a minute per call for mobile telephony is considered high, especially by the new players.

This is because, was fixed five years ago and since then cost parameters have changed considerably.

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