1 Min Pulse For Basic Phone Calls, Suggests ICWAI

Kolkata: | Updated: Dec 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
The department of telecommunication (DoT) should meter local calls at one minute per call, instead of the current three minutes, and also reduce the rates, according to the Institute of Cost & Works Accountants of India (ICWAI).

ICWAI, which was commissioned by DoT in April last year to recommend a tariff structure, says that the one-minute system will induce subscribers to put fewer calls on hold and thus increase the networks efficiency.

A highly-placed ICWAI source said the study was done to help the DoT and the government provide affordable and quality services. The final report is expected in a couple of months. An ICWAI official said DoT will use the study to prepare tariff guidelines for government-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd (MTNL). Any tariff structure will then have to be cleared by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

ICWAI has said that the rates per call should also be lowered, but not proportionately. The reduction in charge should not be exactly proportional to the reduction in metering rate, a senior ICWAI official told FE.

According to ICWAI, the marginal increase in call costs will be beneficial for subscribers in the long run.

For example, a subscriber putting a call on hold for a minute pays for the full three minutes. In the new structure, the subscriber will have to pay for only one minute, an ICWAI official said.

ICWAI has noted that the value of free calls offered to subscribers on a bi-monthly basis often exceeds the fixed rentals, which is

an uneconomical proposition. This is more acute in the case of rural subscribers.

In some cases it has been noted that the number of free calls coupled with the reduction in bi-monthly rental is almost equivalent to offering a free connection to the subscriber, the ICWAI official said.

According to ICWAI, DoTs multi-slab system of charging less for fewer calls is faulty as some consumers exploit the combination of higher number of free calls and lower rentals to keep two phones. In effect, one phone becomes free.

The committee is of the opinion that the system should be reversed, with subscribers making more calls paying comparatively less than those making fewer calls.

This will help DoT to check the exploitation of the free calls systems, the ICWAI official said.

This can be done by implementing a single-slab billing system in place of he existing multi-slab system, which confuses subscribers.

On new projects, the ICWAI says that DoT should ensure that these have a positive rate of return.

Often, DoT is forced to undertake projects under political pressure which become counter-productive for the department. Such projects should not be entertained at all, he said.