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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mobile Call Charges Likely To Rise

he Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), on Wednesday, has recommended a six-fold jump in 2G spectrum cost for operators. This is after the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) findings that the exchequer has lost an estimated amount of Rs. 1.76 lakh crore in 2008 by selling 2G licenses bundled with start-up spectrum at Rs. 1,658 crore to pan-India operators.

The operators are currently paying Rs. 1,658 crore for the contracted 6.2 MHz spectrum for pan-India license but TRAI has come out with a new rate of Rs. 10,972.45 crore. Also, each MHz of additional spectrum held by operators should cost a one-time charge of Rs. 4,571.87 crore (all India). However, this would vary from circle to circle and operators would be required to pay only for those circles, where they hold extra spectrum. TRAI has also recommended that the suggested prices should be made effective from April 1, 2010.

This would mean that our mobile bills are going to multiply in the coming days. Imagine the call rates being Rs. 5 or Rs. 6 per minute, for local calls. That would be “disastrous”, as the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the general body for GSM service providers, says.

“This would mean that my mobile charges are going to triple or even more. My father lives abroad and if the call charges are going to be hiked, all I can do is reduce my dependency on mobile phones and make use of cheaper internet based services like Skype or GTalk,” says Arun Shajan, Quality Controller, Hilton Hyundai, Trivandrum.

“Also, in the long run, this is going to cause heavy loss for the government as more and more people would turn to the aforementioned services,” he adds.

Major telecom operators like Bharti and Vodafone have raised their concern over the new recommendations by TRAI, terming them as “flawed, illogical and discriminatory” against the old operators. The COAI also commented that it is like “changing the goal post in the middle of the game.”

However, the telecom operators in Trivandrum, when contacted chose not to comment on this. “I’m not aware of any such issues and as such I have not been intimated about any call charge hikes,” says Jyothi Shankar, XX, BSNL, Trivandrum.

Telecom minister Kapil Sibal also criticised the CAG for the methodology used to arrive at the presumptive figures.  source

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