Telecom Regulator Talks Sustainability, Levels Part Of Field

New Delhi, January 25: | Updated: Jan 26 2003, 05:30am hrs
In a move that will make fixed line telephony costlier and bring cellular and limited mobility wireless in local loop (WLL) tariffs closer to each other, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Saturday walked the plank of sustainable services to announce new tariffs and new interconnection charges to be applicable from April 1 this year.

The regulator has made all incoming calls free, irrespective of type of service. This would mean that all calls coming to any phone, i.e., cellular, WLL and fixed from any other type of phone, will be free. The regulator has, however, introduced interconnect charges across all kind of networks to be paid by the originator to the terminator (operator from whose network the call is made to the operator of the number called).

This would mean that the new regime will increase the cost burden of basic and WLL operators who were not supposed to pay any termination charges so far. However, cellular subscribers, who were not getting any termination charges hitherto, will now be paid for terminating calls coming from other networks.

In the new regime, basic operators will have to pay 30 paisa per minute to cellular and WLL players in metros and 40 paisa per minute in circles (states). WLL operators will have to shell out 50 paisa per minute to basic and 30 paisa per minute to cellular players for metros and 60 paisa for basic and 40 paisa to cellular in circles. Cellular operators will pay charges identical to those mandated for WLL players to basic and WLL operators for terminating calls.

While the regulator has given the freedom to WLL operators to decide the outgoing tariff, it has not allowed the basic operators to pass the burden of interconnect charges. WLL operators had a cap of Rs 1.20 per call so far while the cellular operators were allowed to decide call charges without any restriction.

In an effort to bring fixed line tariff close to cost, the regulator reduced the fixed line local call pulse rate from 3 minutes to 2 minutes without any change in the prices per call. The monthly rental for users connected to exchanges with more than 1 lakh lines (large cities) has been increased from Rs 250 per month to Rs 280 and the rent for exchanges having 30,000 to 99,900 lines (medium size towns) has been increased from Rs 180 to Rs 200. There is no change in rentals for other exchanges in urban and rural areas. The rental for commercial subscribers has also not been touched. The number of free calls for urban areas has been reduced from 60 to 30 and for rural areas from 75 to 50 calls per month.

Local calls from fixed line to cellular have also become costlier as the pulse rate for calling from fixed line to cellular calls has been fixed at 90 seconds for metros and 60 seconds for circles.

When contacted the telecom operators refused to react saying that they are studying the recommendations and will be able to comment only next week. We will comment only after studying the recommendation and their impact on the traffic pattern, Bharti Tele-Venture spokesperson said. Tata Teleservices and Reliance Infocomm officials also gave a similar response. The officials of government companies: Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) could not be contacted for an official comment.

The mood, however, was sombre in telecom circles. While basic operators were not happy with the recommendation to absorb the access charges, WLL players said that the new regime has introduced the calling party pays (CP) regime from the back door. The cellular operators, on the other hand, were irked forcing them to make all incoming free for just 30 paisa per minute access charges.