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Phone tariffs to fall again

New Delhi, January 30
Telephone tariffs in India, one of the lowest in the world, are set to fall further, with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) gearing up to reduce the access deficit charge (ADC), a decision that was taken last year.

Top-ranking sources in the TRAI said a decision of the TRAI had already been made in 2006 to reduce the ADC as it was a depleting regime.

“Since the one year expires in March, the first step will be to set up consultation with operators and open house discussions”, the sources added.

The ADC cuts by the TRAI had earlier resulted in reductions in domestic (STD) tariffs and also in both incoming and outgoing international calls, with the operators passing on the benefits to the subscribers.

But the move would draw flak from the BSNL as it was a levy paid by all telecom operators to the BSNL and this allowed the PSU to subsidise its rural operations and fulfil its social obligations.

Currently all operators pay 1.5 per cent of their annual aggregate gross revenues (AGR) to the BSNL as the ADC.

The BSNL also earns an ADC of Rs 1.60 per minute for all incoming international calls to India and Re 0.80 per minute for every outgoing ISD call.

The TRAI had last year fixed the ADC at Rs 3,335 crore for 2006-07, from Rs 5,340 crore the previous year.

This had enabled all operators, including the BSNL, to reduce long-distance tariffs and implement OneIndia call rates, that is, STD at Re 1.

The regulator had also done away with the per minute ADC for domestic calls.

If the BSNL needs subsidy from April 2008, it will have to turn to the universal service obligation fund.

“The ADC regime cannot continue in perpetuity”, they said.

All operators pay 5 per cent of their AGR towards the USO fund, which is also used to support rural telephony.

The telecom regulator had recently slashed roaming charges by between 22 and 56 per cent at Rs 2.40 for outgoing STD and Rs 1.75 for incoming calls, making more affordable for the mobile user as new tariffs were simple, transparent and distant neutral.

The new roaming rates would be effective from February 15.

There would be no rental in any form either monthly, weekly or daily, the TRAI said after two months of deliberations with various stakeholders, including mobile operators, who had not contended these new tariffs.

The move came after the authority found roaming market to be lacking in competition.

It went through a detailed consultation process and set up several open house discussions before coming out with the order.

The move would also promote inter-state trade.

At present, the mobile user is charged a rental of Rs 50 for national roaming services.

For a GSM subscriber, the charge of an outgoing call can be up to Rs 3.99 per minute, while a CDMA user is charged anywhere from Re 1 to Rs 3.99.

For both users, service operators charge a maximum of Rs 4 for SMS within the country. — UNI

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