In a move that would benefit mobile phone users, but may hit the bottomlines of service providers, The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India plans to ask operators to bill customers on a per-second basis.
Most operators currently use per-minute billing, which means customers are charged for at least a minute even if they use less than that. Tata's DoCoMo has recently introduced a per-second billing plan for its GSM customers, which helped it to sign up its highest-ever 3.4 million subscribers in August.
"We may ask all operators to consider the per-second pulse as a mandatory option along with their other tariff plans, so that consumers can enjoy the benefit of paying only for their usage,'' TRAI chairman J S Sarma, told newspersons on the sidelines of the International Telecommunication Union summit in Geneva.
Sarma, however, did not specify the timeframe for implementing the per-second-billing plan. ''We will first issue a consultation paper on the subject. According to existing regulations, TRAI can issue a directive only after seeking the industry's view on the subject,'' he said.
While tariff wars are continuing relentlessly, with new offers being almost routinely announce, Sarma's latest pronouncement is seen as a little too extreme, and sent the stocks of telecom companies reeling on Monday. HSBC said in a research report in August that per-second billing was the most "disruptive" plan, and if all operators adopt it the sector's revenue could fall by 10-15 per cent.