Concerned about the exaggerated ripples created by his earlier comment from Geneva that per-second billing would become compulsory for mobile telephony providers, J S Sarma, chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, has clarified that even if enforced, the per-second system would be an additional tariff plan, not applicable across all tariff plans.
At a hurriedly called press conference in New Delhi, Sarma confirmed that he was examining the feasibility of bringing in a direction making it mandatory for service providers to include 'pay-per-second' in their bouquet of plans. "We will issue a consultation paper on the matter in a month," he said.
This was actually clear enough in his comments on Tuesday, when he had said, ''We may ask all the operators to consider per-second pulse as a mandatory tariff option along with their other tariff plans.'' (See: TRAI may insist on 'per second' mobile billing)
However, the headline-seeking media largely twisted this statement to mean that per-second billing would be made mandatory across tariff plans. This sent telecom stocks into a downspin, and probably prompted Sarma to call a fresh press conference.
Clarifying the meaning of "mandatory option", Sarma explained that it will be mandatory for the operators to offer at least one such plan, but optional for the consumers on whether or not they wish to subscribe to such a plan. Sarma further pointed out that operators would be free to determine the rate that they charge per second.
Asked if it was necessary for TRAI to intervene in tariffs when they are already among the lowest in the world - with as many as 13 operators jostling for market share - Sarma replied, "Customer satisfaction is paramount, and there is work to be done in this regard.''