Trai to review regulatory regime for international call termination charges

Telecom regulator Trai on Friday began an industry-wide discussion to review the regulatory regime for international call termination charges that were lowered to 30 paise per minute last year.

Issuing the consultation paper on review of interconnection usage charges (IUC) in this regard, Trai said that in case of termination charge for international incoming call, the last amendment was carried out in 2018.

That review had brought down the termination charge for international incoming call to wire line and wireless networks to 30 paise per minute with effect from February 1, 2018. This had marked a 43 per cent reduction in international termination charge (paid by international operators to local networks that receive calls) which had previously been pegged at 53 paise a minute.

"While notifying the last amendment, the Authority noted that it shall closely monitor the trends and patterns of International Long Distance (ILD) voice traffic in the country. The Authority, also noted that, if it deems necessary, may review International Termination Charge (ITC) from time to time," the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said in a statement.

The regulator noted that the characteristics of the telecom market in India as well as globally is "changing very fast".

"The domestic market composition is changing from voice centric to data centric, and the tariff offerings are changing from pricing of individual products like voice, data, messages etc. to bundled offers comprising of voice, data, and messages together," it said.

In case of international roaming also, tariff packages for bundles comprising certain pre-fixed quantity of incoming and outgoing voice calls, data, and messages are becoming popular, Trai observed.

The rate of decline of international incoming voice traffic through carrier route has reduced after the revision of ITC rates in 2018, it said.

"With this background, the present consultation paper embarks on the review of the existing regulatory regime for International Termination Charges (ITC)," Trai said.

In the consultation paper -- for which written responses have to be submitted by December 9 -- Trai has asked if there is a need to change the existing regulatory regime from fixing uniform rate of ITC to an alternate approach, and what should the alternate approach be.

It has also asked what other measures are required to be taken by the regulator for protecting the interests of Indian consumers and service providers.

The latest move by Trai comes at a time when the regulator has also initiated a controversial review of call connect charges for domestic calls, currently at 6 paise per minute.

Trai has scheduled for November 15 its open house discussion on the interconnect usage charges issue that has seen old and new operators erupt in a war of words recently.

Airtel had earlier accused Reliance Jio of "gaming" the system of paying for calls to rival network, and Jio has returned fire arguing that incumbents are charging high voice tariffs and manipulating the system to the detriment of their users.

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