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January 21, 2000
Neena Haridas in New Delhi
The Delhi High Court today ordered cellular phone operators in metros to cut rental charges from Rs 600 per month to Rs 474 per month with retrospective effect from November 1999.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice S N Variava and Justice S K Mahajan asked the cell phone companies in other circles to charge a rental charge of Rs 500 with retrospective effect from November 1, 1999 and airtime charges of Rs 4.50 per minute from February 1, 2000.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the body the Union cabinet has recently decided to dismantle, had originally recommended these revised rates.
The court also said airtime charges would be calculated at Rs 2 per 30 seconds instead of the 20-second pulse rate suggested by the TRAI. This decision was taken because the Cellular Operators Association of India pointed out that the cellular operators would have to make changes in their software if the pulse rate was changed as the TRAI had recommended.
The court also ordered that the arrears of the overcharged rental per month at Rs 600 would be adjusted by the operators in the future bills of the subscriber within three months starting February.
The billing cycle for future bills under the new arrangement would also start from February 1, 2000, the court said.
The court made it clear that the arrangement on airtime pulse rate "is interim, subject to final calculation of license fee by the government or any licensing authority."
Regarding making incoming calls free, the court said, any operator who wishes to make incoming calls free on mobile phones or wants to offer "better" rental and airtime package was free to do so.
The HC order today comes after the COAI sought clarification on the court's order on Tuesday quashing the caller party payment regime. The TRAI, under this plan, had proposed that incoming calls on cellular phones be made free.
COAI counsel Gopal Subramaniam told the court that TRAI had fixed a monthly airtime charge of Rs 4 but the existing software available with the cellular phone operators calculated it on the basis of the 20-second pulse rate and that it was difficult to implement.
He said the operators were ready to calculate the charges at Rs 2 per 30 seconds pulse rate and would make the required changes in the software in a week or so.
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