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Thursday, September 10, 1998
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TRAI for major hike in phone call charges
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Sept 9 — The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today proposed a substantial increase in phone rentals and local call rates for rural and urban areas and slashing of free calls per subscriber.

On the brighter side, TRAI called for reducing tariff for domestic long-distance and international calls.

The proposals have been made in a concept paper "Telecom Pricing", which would be floated for public debate, the TRAI Chairman, Mr Justice S.S. Sodhi, said here today.

The paper has proposed local calls in rural and urban areas should be charged at a flat rate of Rs 1.30 per three-minute call after adjusting 120 free calls bi-monthly. Under the existing call charge structure, calls cost between 60 paise to Rs 1.40 in rural areas and 80 paise to Rs 1.40 in non-rural areas per five-minute call.

It has suggested the monthly rental should be increased to Rs 120 from Rs 50 in rural areas and for non-rural areas it be in the range of Rs 160 to Rs 310 instead of the existing Rs 75 to Rs 190.

TRAI has proposed the bi-monthly free call should be slashed to 120 for both urban and rural areas.

The existing ceiling is 150 in urban areas and 250 in the rural areas. The TRAI paper also proposed to simplify the tariff mechanism for long distance calls by cutting the present eight-tier structure to a four-layer call rate mechanism for distances up to 50 km, 200 km, 500 km and above 500 km.
A three-minute call will cost 43 paise in the first slab, Rs 3.90 in the second slab, Rs 9.75 in the third and Rs 19.50 in the fourth slab.

Regarding international calls, TRAI has proposed a tariff cap of Rs 19.50 per minute in case of SAARC and other neighbouring countries, Rs 30 per minute for countries in Africa, Europe, the Gulf and members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Rs 39 per minute for the countries in the American continent.

TRAI also proposed a substantial increase in the rental for cellular phone services. It wants to raise the monthly rental to Rs 600 from the existing Rs 150 per month. There is also a proposal to increase the monthly rentals for paging services.

Abolishing the standard hour which is at present priced at Rs 8.40 per minute, TRAI proposed an eight-hour peak and the remaining off-peak structure with a cap of Rs 6 per minute for a call.

TRAI has also proposed to change the present scheme of paying for incoming calls. A "calling party pays" scheme is suggested.

Charges for calls from fixed line to mobile phone have, however, been fixed at a higher rate as compared to a call between two fixed lines. The ceiling price is proposed at Rs 3.90 per minute and 85 per cent of the revenue from these calls is proposed to be given to the cellular operator.

Airtime during Sundays and three national holidays (January 26, August 15 and October 2) is proposed to be priced at off-peak rates.

Rental caps for pagers have also been proposed to be hiked from Rs 250 per month to Rs 300 in case of alphanumeric pagers and from Rs 150 to Rs 175 for numeric pagers.

Mr Justice Sodhi said "The proposed changes will have no impact on the Telecom department’s revenue in the first year".

Thereafter the single slab tariff for replacing the present graded tariff structure would benefit the subscribers.

After consultation with various market players in the basic telephony and other interest groups, TRAI would come out with a final tariff structure that would be applicable throughout the country.back

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