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TRAI rules out tariff review
January 29, 2003 17:51 IST
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Wednesday virtually ruled out reviewing new telecom tariffs announced by it last week, even as some operators were planning to approach TRAI expressing their concerns over the new price norms.
It also admitted that its order to reduce pulse rate of fixed-line telephony would increase the cost of accessing internet, and said it would address the issue.
Asked if TRAI would review its latest tariff decision in the backdrop of appeals by various sections of the telecom industry, TRAI Chairman M S Verma said, "No. We have done our best."
"We feel there are so many aspects of the entire exercise that if you touch one aspect, the others will also get affected. A lot of time has gone into this," Verma told reporters on the sidelines of an Assocham seminar in New Delhi.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India last week announced its tariff order and the interconnection usage charges.
The new order brings with it an increase in basic phone rentals, reduction in call duration and sharp curtailment in the number of free calls with effect from April 1, 2003, while some good news would come in the form of free incoming calls for cellular subscribers.
Verma acknowledged that internet service providers ''have a point'' and the regulator is also concerned if internet usage through dial-up connection is hit by the order, to be effective from April 1.
Verma told newspersons after addressing an ASSOCHAM-sponsored conference on 'Governance and Accountability' that the issue of internet access could be resolved through the bulk charge of dial-up services for ISPs or through adopting some other technology. He, however, refused to divulge the exact steps that TRAI would be taking to address the issue.
Verma said TRAI may ask opeartors to decrease charges for ISPs since their losses would decrease because of the new IUC regime.
''We would certainly like to address the issue. But cannot tell you (the methods to be adopted by TRAI).'' Due to the January 25 TRAI order, a surfer would have to pay for 30 local calls or Rs 36 at the rate of Rs 1.20 per minute from the next fiscal against the existing 20 calls or Rs 24, besides the internet usage charge.
On all-round criticism of the order, Verma said there is bound to be some adverse reaction. But the order would create a system that the operators were asking for. ''We have created a framework. Now we can move forward from here. There would not be any review. We have done our best. There are so many corners, if we touch one, eight to ten others would also have to be changed and we will be back to square one,'' he said.
He said TRAI had asked for mutual negotiations between operators for the IUC but no one agreed as there were fears that the other party would not be honest. ''There can be negotiation within the new framework. Minimum trial time should be given to the new order.''
To a question that the directive would pull out WLL from the basic telephony services, Verma said both services are governed by the same licencing agreement. However, WLL is slightly different from basic telephony, so it has been given a different treatment.
WLL has been put on par with cell industry so far as access deficit charges are concerned. Besides, outgoing charges between WLL and cell phones would be dictated by market forces, according to the new order.
'TRAI announcements are suggestions'
The announcements made by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ‘are suggestions' and it is for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd board to decide on implementation of a hike in fixed-line tariff, Union Minister of State for Communications and IT Sumitra Mahajan said on Wednesday.
"The government has no important role to play and it is for the BSNL board members to sit together and think about it," Mahajan told reporters here after inaugurating a national awareness seminar on ‘India's telecom sector - the way ahead.'
Last week TRAI had announced a 11-12 per cent increase in monthly rental for basic (landline) telephone, while reducing pulse duration for local calls to two minutes instead of current three minutes to be made applicable from April 1.
Asked about chances of not implementing TRAI announcement, she said: "Maybe."
Referring to the increased rentals, the minister said one has to see that there was no major impact on common man and there was need for strengthening the BSNL.
BSNL chairman and managing director Prithpal Singh said since the announcements were applicable only from April there was sufficient time to think and plan accordingly.
Apart from consulting the government (owner), the rentals needs to be studied to work out some packages.
"One needs to go beyond price war and see what was being offered to consumers. Prices are not important today but is more of adding value and quality service as also increasing the customer base and usage," he added.
Additional inputs: UNI
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