The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued an order, making it mandatory for every telecom service provider to ensure that they offer at least one tariff plan in each circle, for both postpaid and prepaid subscribers, which offers a per-second pulse rate for local and national calls. It’s interesting to note that what was once a USP offered by new entrants like Tata Docomo and Uninor, to attract subscribers, has now become a standard tariff, prescribed by the regulator.

The TRAI has said that this move was taken to ensure that ‘per second billing’ remained an alternative option for all subscribers since it allows subscribers to pay only for the actual usage rather than a fixed rate and has therefore become more acceptable among majority of the subscribers since the inception of these tariffs in 2009. TRAI however stated that operators are still free to offer alternative tariff plans with pulse rate of their preference, within the overall existing ceiling of 25 tariff plans at any point of time.

Premium Services: TRAI has also mandated that the tariff for calls and SMS made by subscribers to participate in any competition and voting should not exceed four times of the applicable local call/SMS charges. Elaborating on the significantly higher rates for premium services like helpline services, ring tones, gaming and many more, TRAI stated that these services were being charged significantly higher in comparison to the normal tariff, since the charges also includes the price for content. But unlike other premium services, the calls and SMS made in order to participate in any competition and voting involves minimal content element, and therefore the charges levied by service providers are unreasonably high and don’t seem to have any relation with the normal tariff. The authority added that if there are differential local call rates in the same tariff plan, the higher tariff applicable in the plan would be taken into account. Interestingly, the TRAI clarified that it does not want to restrict the growth of services involving content, so it’s not fixing prices for content driven services. So in a way the TRAI is maintaining distance from regulating VAS pricing specially related to content services but should TRAI regulate any premium service tariff?

ILD Tariff: TRAI has also decided to exclude ILD (International Long Distance) call rates from Tariff Protection planned under the 43rd Amendment, thereby providing flexibility to service providers to make revisions in ILD tariff irrespective of whether they are a new subscriber or an existing subscriber. However, TRAI noted that it will keep an eye out to ensure that this flexibility is not misused by service providers.