Tariff Hike and Other Policies: Why Are Regulators Silent?

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India’s telecom happening was going great, and one day the bubble bursts. Then it is again a dull story. Supreme Court’s cancellation of 122 licenses was catastrophic to the sector. As new players left, the market turns to consolidate a bit, and incumbent ones seem to in the seat of driver. That’s not a good advertisement for Indian telecom which attracted many inside and overseas investment options.

tariff-hike-regulatorSMS Termination Charge

Recently Airtel, Vodafone and Idea blocked incoming sms from Aircel, Tata Tele and Reliance Communications demanding payment for sms termination charges. It’s quite interesting to know TRAI didn’t have a strict regulation for sms termination charge – it is adjustable among operators. The dispute as it is solved by Court order is closed by 5 paisa per sms termination charge. But see one single sms of 160 characters is just few bytes of data and there is no use of making 5paisa per sms termination charges. TRAI should make it zero.

Black out Days

I simply don’t understand making of this ‘black out days’ i.e. paying more for voice and sms on special occasions even if I am subscribed to rate cutters. A new regulation of TRAI says it is now extended to voice also i.e. operators will charge as per the default tariff (varies from Rs 2 per minute or 2 paisa per second). The current scenario is that you will not get an extra validity for these black out days. As TRAI is going, we might see Rs 10 per MB data charges on New Year’s Day. TRAI must save voice from black out days, as voice is the primary need. But best is to remove this concept of Black out days or put a generous cap of 30 minutes of voices, 100 sms, and never extend it to data.

Call Termination Charges

Currently for local call charges its 20p/minute and for STD calls it is 50p/minute. Now as the operators, specially the older ones are hiking tariffs it is wisely advisable that TRAI must cut down call termination charges by 50% or more. I hope for the best that in new telecom policy local call termination charge to be 10p/min and STD call termination charges 20p/min. It will draw shouting from Airtel and other biggies, but be bold, TRAI. It will help new players to sustain in the market and continue to offer low call rates. The new NTP must provide a road map for call termination charges to zero.

Inter circle 3G Roaming or better to be called as ‘3G Spectrum Sharing’ among Airtel, Vodafone and Idea

TRAI or DoT is doing nothing to stop these operators providing 3G in the circles where they don’t have 3G spectrum. The point is they did not spend a single penny for a circle’s 3G spectum, yet they are providing 3G as they share it between them. This cartelization of Indian telecom (COAI become an agent of Airtel, Vodafone and Idea!) is not good for future growth, as it cuts the competition. (Do you think the current low call charges if new players did not enter in 2008? Or just think the state of broadband in India – no competition, no mass adoption). Either stop these culprits and ask for huge penalty or make it legal so that every operator can do this.

Free National Roaming – One Country, One Circle

I am not sold with this, as it has several complications. Say operator ‘A’ offers low tariff in a category C circle, and when someone moves from this circle to a metro (where tariff is high) he will continue to enjoy cheap rates in a top circle. Black marketing is unavoidable. Also those operators are not pan India basis will be charged high from pan India operators to provide their customers to roam on. Rather I suggest for something like this – only pan India operators can offer this, at a minimal cost per year.But national mobile number portability is thumbs up from me. It does have fewer complications.

Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO)

There is no policy of MVNO in India, Virgin Mobile and Talk24 serves as a sub-brand for Tata Teleservices. Once when voice tariff was rock bottom, there was almost no chance for MVNO. But as the voice and 2G tariffs are hiked and stabilizing, and 3G tariff is reduced yet unsold to majority of subscribers I think MVNO in India has some scopes. Why DoT and TRAI are sitting down and waiting for NTP to address MVNO policies? They can already come up with MVNO policy and regulation.

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