The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rethink on new telecom regime

New Delhi, May 10: Buckling under pressure from the opposition parties and also NDA allies, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today decided to review the interconnection user charge (IUC) regime and the telecom tariffs that allowed customers to get free incoming calls in any type of phone — fixed, mobile or limited mobile.

Pending the review, the regulator has allowed the operators to implement tariff packages after a ‘self-check’. This means consumers will now be at the mercy of the operators with Trai shunning the responsibility of monitoring tariffs.

Though Trai has promised a review, the re-examination exercise can take up quite a few months.

“In view of the fact that the IUC regime will itself be the subject of review and large number of tariff packages that require examination, the authority has decided that it would allow a longer period to the service providers to implement tariffs after conducting a self-check regarding the consistency of those tariffs with relevant regulatory principles,” Trai said in a statement.

Trai noted that a large number of tariffs for basic services have already been approved by the authority and hence the self-check flexibility is applicable to cellular, limited mobile and STD service providers.

According to D. P. S. Seth, member (technical) of Trai, “The existing IUC system will continue and the tariff rates will be subject to the clearance of the regulator. During this period, the present IUC regime will continue to prevail.”

The background paper for these consultations will be issued by May 15.

Earlier, for the month of May, Trai had given the operators a self-assessment power for implementing their packages and had said that tariff packages after May 31 would require the prior approval of Trai.

Now the same has been extended for an initial period of three months and an unlimited period if it fails to complete the consultation paper by that time.

Reacting to the Trai decision, T. V. Ramachandran, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, said: “It is unfortunate that the various aspects of IUC regime will have to be deferred but it’s a good move that the regulator has sought a review and come out with a consultation paper. This was our demand since there were a few differences on the arithmetic of calculation and some aspects of limited mobility.”

According to S. C. Khanna, secretary general of the Association of Basic Telecom Operators, “Trai has understood the problem of telecom industry now. The calling party pays (CPP) regime has made calls from fixed line to cellular three to five times costlier. Hence we demand that the CPP regime be removed immediately.”

The regulator will also examine the number of tariff plans that should be allowed to each service provider. At present, each service provider is allowed to offer maximum of 25 packages.

Trai has asked the service providers to give clear indication of the actual amount paid by the subscribers for calls made within the free call allowance and outside it.

“Generally in a number of tariff packages with lump sum payments in addition to call charges, the actual amount of call charge is more than the amounts specified for customer’s information,” Trai said and added that it would prescribe a manner in which such tariffs should be announced so that there were no hidden costs.

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