Will new TRAI guidelines on long distance calls benefit customers?

TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) on Tuesday issued regulations prescribing access charges payable by International Long Distance Operator (ILDO) to the Telecom Service Provider (TSP).

The regulator said access charges to be paid by ILDO to Access Provider will be 40 paisa per minute for wireless services and Rs 1.20 per minute for wireline services.

TRAI said it would be reasonable to fix the access charges at 40 paisa per minute for wireless and at 120 paisa per minute for wireline after giving a mark-up of about 15 percent on the access costs derived above.

The prescribed access charges would be the default option in all cases where negotiations between TSP and ILDO are not successful. While the TSP and ILDO would be free to enter into mutually agreed access charges, the access charges prescribed in this Regulation would be applicable where no agreements are entered into, now or in the future.

However, all the agreements need to be entered into within the time frame prescribed in the various provisions of this regulation, said TRAI.

ILD freedom is a failed topic in the Indian telecom history.

Earlier, TRAI gave sufficient time to TSPs to negotiate access charges among themselves to provide choice of ILDOs to consumers so that consumers can get competitive rates for making their ISD calls. However, a number of TSPs were not able to arrive at a mutually negotiated access charge. Therefore, TRAI after following due consultation process has prescribed the access charges through this regulation.

Interestingly, the new regulation coming into place after 14 years since the first direction was issued to TSPs to provide facility to consumers to choose their NLDO/ILDO. TRAI has stepped in with the new guidelines as consumers did not have the choice of selecting their long distance operator for making STD/ISD calls and get the advantage of competition in the long distance sector.

Tata Communications, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, BSNL, etc. are some of the leading long distance operators in India.

ILDO

TRAI earlier noted that at each stage in the process, TSPs have tried to dodge the introduction of competition.

In the current prevailing regime, a consumer does not have the option to choose its ILD Operator for making ISD calls.

The consumer depends on its access provider for making ISD calls. To provide the facility to subscribers to choose their NLDO/ILDO for their STD/ISD calls, TRAI issued a direction on 24 July 2002. The direction could not be implemented due to various reasons given by TSPs. When this issue was again revisited in 2008 by TRAI, TSPs suggested that a primary objective of providing choice of a long distance operator could be achieved by allowing Long Distance Operators to issue calling cards.

The licenses were amended in 2010 to allow NLDO/ILDO to issue calling cards directly to consumers. Intelligent Network Regulation was also amended to facilitate time bound agreements between TSPs. However consumers still do not have the choice of Long Distance Operator for making STD/ISD calls.

TRAI says access charges to be paid by the calling card service providers to the access service providers for calling card services should be based broadly on the principle of work done by the access service provider. This requires estimation of the associated costs so that the access provider is not burdened with under-recovery of costs while at the same time ensuring that the end-user does not bear costs unrelated to access.

Baburajan K
editor@telecomlead.com