Telcos warned by Trai over cell phone call rate hikes

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 25 2013, 01:24am hrs
TRAI today said that the regulator's free-hand to telecom operators to fix call and other services charges should not be taken for granted and

changes in tariffs are being continuously monitored.

"Forbearance does not mean that we have closed our eyes. Forbearance reposes faith on operators and we realise there is competition in the market," TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar told PTI.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) around

mid of this month decided to continue with forbearance in

tariff regime that gives freedom to decide on call and other

services rates.

The TRAI Chairman said that if there is market where

competition is driving tariff down then forbearance is

reasonable action.

Indian mobile phone industry, known for the lowest priced

telecom services rates, has now started seeing northward

movement with continuous increase in tariffs by leading

telecom operators -- Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Idea Cellular and Vodafone.

These four operators account for more than 65 per cent

mobile phone connections in the country with 58.41 crore

customers on their wireless network as of November 2012.

Telecom operators Idea Cellular, Vodafone and Reliance

Communications are learnt to have increased call charges in the range of 20 per cent to 33 per cent over space of four months.

There was another hike noticed in mobile internet

services within last one month period by Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular in the range of 25 per cent to 30 per cent.

In the third round, telecom operator Airtel and Idea

Cellular took promotional scheme route to hike call rates by slashing free minutes in the range of 10 per cent to 25 per cent and increasing rates of special tariff vouchers which offers discounts on call rates and other services.

Vodafone too indicated that it will follow the suite.

The TRAI Chairman, however, expressed concern on

successive increase in services rates by operators.

"The different question and more difficult question is that today one did and after two days other two did it.. is there any nexus among them" he said. NGO Telecom Watchdog, one of the petitioner in 2G spectrum case, has approached Competition Commission of India as well as TRAI to look into matter. "This hike in a cartelised manner is illegal, unjustified, and arbitrary. There is no justification for such a tariff hike," Telecom Watchdog Secretary Anil Kumar said in his complaint to CCI.

Telecom consumer activist and Chairman of Cell for

Consumer Education and Advocacy Society, Bejon Mishra

condemned tariff hike and demanded "immediate probe into the matter to ensure transparency and accountability of the telecom sector towards the consumers."