India rings in sweeping changes in telephone tariffs
NEW DELHI: As part of the changes, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has directed fixed-line and limited mobility, or Wireless in Local Loop (WLL), phone operators to pay access, or interconnection, charges to cellular companies.
"Fixed-line companies and limited mobility players will now pay an interconnect fee to cellular companies for a local call in metropolitan cities," the telecom regulator said. The new tariff will come into force from April 1.
"The two pillars on which we have completed this exercise are continued availability and affordability of services," said M.S. Verma, chairman of TRAI.
"We have done this taking into account the interest of consumers, both present and future," Verma told a press conference here.
The Indian telephone industry this month witnessed a bitter row over the interconnection of phone networks between private cellular operators and a consortium of fixed-line and limited radius phone players.
The regulator's new tariff structure comes a week after Minister for IT and Communications Pramod Mahajan brokered a truce between the two warring groups.
Interconnection agreements among telephone operators allow subscribers of one company to make or receive phone calls from other companies' networks.
Mobile phone users currently pay 1.20 as access charge, apart from airtime fee, each time they make a call to a WLL or fixed-line phone network. But fixed-line and WLL phone users calling a mobile phone do not have to pay any access charges.
TRAI also raised monthly rental charges for basic telephone operators by about 11 to 12 percent. Basic telephone rental charge in cities with exchange system capacity of more than 100,000 lines will go up from 250 to 280 per month.
The regulator has, however, kept the phone rentals unchanged for rural subscribers and senior citizens in both urban and rural areas.
It also reduced the pulse duration for local calls to two minutes instead of the current three minutes. The number of free calls per month has also been cut from 60 to 30 in urban areas and 75 to 50 in rural areas.
The tariffs for calls from fixed to cellular phones have been increased "so as to make it possible to have adequate revenue share available for the two networks," the regulator said.
"An important change with the implementation of the new tariff and interconnection charge regime coming into force would be that incoming calls to cellular subscribers will be free of charge."
There would be no free calls in the case of WLL phone services.
For distances up to 50 km, a call will be charged at a local call rate, that is 1.20 per two minutes. For all other distance categories, TRAI has put a ceiling of 8.40 per minute.