Domestic call rates to fall as Trai slashes inter-operator charges

Domestic call rates, both mobile and fixed-line, are expected to fall with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) nearly halving long-distance mobile carriage charges, following a 30-per cent reduction in the amount that mobile inter-connectivity charges and scrapping similar charges for fixed-line operators.

Trai today issued the `Telecommunication Interconnection Usage Charges (Twelfth Amendment) Regulations', which prescribe a revised domestic carriage charge of 35 paisa per minute, against the existing 65 paise per minute.

The telecom regulator had yesterday announced a 30-per cent reduction in call termination charge to 14 paise a minute for each call terminating on a rival's network, compared with 20 paise earlier.

For fixed-line phones, the termination charge has been reduced to `zero' from 20 paise per minute.

This will boost the usage of fixed line phone connections in the country, which is dominated by state-run telcos Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagat Telecom Nigam Ltd by raising demand for landline connections.

An access service provider in India offers access services within the licensed service area (LSA) only. Inter-LSA calls have to be routed through a national long distance operator (NLDO). The charges to be paid by an access provider to the NLDO to cover the cost for carrying inter-LSA calls are called carriage charges.

Trai had prescribed the carriage charges through the Interconnection Usage Charges (IUC) Regulations of 23 February 2006, which stipulated a ceiling of 65 paisa per minute. These charges were reviewed again in 2008-09 but the same ceiling of 65 paisa per minute was retained.

To review the IUC, the regulator issued a consultation paper on 19 November 2014 to seek the views of stakeholders on various components of IUC, including domestic carriage charges.

Stakeholders were asked to submit written comments by 11 December 2014 and counter-comments by 18 December 2014. On the request of some stakeholders, the dates for submission of comments and counter-comments were extended up to 22 December 2014 and 29 December 2014, respectively.

Trai said it received written comments from two industry associations, 15 TSPs and 47 other stakeholders, including companies, organisations, firms and individuals while six TSPs and one individual had submitted counter-comments. Since then, an open house discussion was held on 9 January 2015 in Delhi with stakeholders.

On the basis of comments received from stakeholders, either in writing or during the open house discussion and internal analysis, the regulator has reduced the ceiling of the domestic carriage charge to 35 paisa per minute from the existing 65 paisa per minute through these regulations, effective 1 March 2015.

Trai has already issued regulations prescribing mobile termination charge and fixed termination charge and international termination charge on 23 February 2015.

BSNL, the largest fixed-line provider in the country, said tariffs will fall "substantially", while smaller mobile operators like Uninor said customers "will benefit" from the measure.