The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mixed signal on call rates

New Delhi, Feb. 23: Overseas call rates and STD charges on both landline and mobile phones are slated to go down but watch out for a slight rise in local call rates.

The telecom regulator today rejigged a set of fixed charges that consumers know very little about, but which could change the fortunes of the telecom industry.

The telecom regulator slashed the access deficit charge (ADC) on overseas calls and removed it altogether from domestic calls. At the same time, it fixed a carriage charge of 65 paise per minute that could prompt some operators to raise local call rates.

The new regime comes into force from March 1.

The access deficit charge (ADC) is a levy that private operators pay for not being able to fulfil licence conditions by providing telephone services in rural and inaccessible areas. The fee thus collected goes into a kitty and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd is its biggest beneficiary and uses the money to set up rural phone networks.

But it’s the other charge ' the carriage fee ' that threatens to open up a real can of worms. Trai said it was moving over to a flat carriage fee of 65 paise per minute irrespective of distance.

The carriage charge is paid to the operator who takes the call from the place of origin to the point of termination. In the Indian telecom system, most of that carrying is done by BSNL.

The telecom regulator admitted that there could be problems. At present, the carriage fee for calls up to 50 km is 20 paise per minute. “There may be a tendency for some operators to charge this higher amount,” Trai said.

But it is betting they won’t.

Trai added ominously: “The situation will be kept under observation and, if required, a review will be carried out.”

The regulator said the per minute ADC on outgoing international calls would be Rs 1.60 per minute, a reduction of 50 per cent. In the case of calls coming from abroad, the charge would be 80 paise per minute, a decrease of 65 per cent.

Trai chairman Pradip Baijal said tariffs were expected to fall in wake of the new ADC regime. “We are expecting tariffs to come down. However, we can’t say by how much they will drop,” he added.

The regulator expected to eliminate ADC by 2008-09.

Private telecom players were chuffed by the cut in ADC. The overall burden on the private players will now go down from around Rs 5400 crore to Rs 3335 crore, Trai said.

“We will be able to charge lower rates because we will now be entitled to lower carriage charges, at least for distances beyond 50 kms,” said a spokesperson for a private telecom company.

Idea Cellular sprang a surprise by offering to charge nothing for the first two minutes of any outgoing call ' local or STD ' made by its pre-paid customers.

“As always, we shall be passing on benefit of this latest policy initiative to our customers,” said a spokesman for Bharti Tele-ventures.

Reliance Infocomm was a little more circumspect. "We welcome the overall reduction in ADC by Trai,” said a spokesperson. But the company made no commitment on lowering call charges.

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