The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has hiked the SMS termination charges to 2 paise per SMS for normal SMS and 5 paise per SMS on each transactional SMS on operators from whom the SMS originates. TRAI also notes that transactional SMS origination from government organizations have been excluded from these new regulations and that these new charges will be applicable from June 1, 2013.
Currently, only promotional SMS are charged termination cost of 5 paise per SMS. After the new regulations are implemented, termination charges will be applicable to transactional, normal and promotional SMS. TRAI hopes that these hiked termination charges will help to curb the pesky SMS spam, which continue to be a major problem even after the imposition of the SMS Spam Guidelines.
Why TSPs want termination charge on SMS? According to the TRAI statement, telecom service providers (TSP) had noted that smaller operators are selling bulk SMS to telemarketers at cheap rates and that the revenues earned by them are primarily based on the large number of transactional and promotional SMS to subscribers of other networks without having to pay to terminating TSPs. Following the new regulations, operators will be able to earn from smaller operators for normal, promotional and transactional SMS providing a balance.
Besides this, the amendment to ‘The Telecom Commercial Customer Preference Regulations, 2010’ also includes blacklisting of telemarketers from whom unsolicited commercial calls (UCC) emerge. Blacklisted telemarketers will not receive any telecom resources from access provider. TRAI also notes that it will collect name and address of the subscriber who has not registered as a telemarketer with TRAI and blacklist it for 2 years. It will also disconnect all telecom services to these subscribers. Access providers are recommended to disconnect all telecom resources provided to the blacklisted subscriber and telemarketer within 24 hours.
Last year in January, we had reported that telemarketers and bulk SMS companies had been sending promotional messages as transactional messages, in direct violation of the TRAI’s SMS Spam regulations. Previously, TRAI had launched a web portal at – nccptrai.gov.in – for customers to lodge a complaint against commercial communication where telecom service providers could take action against such complaints.
Update: What this necessary? (Nikhil adds)
The cost of imposing additional charges on transactional messages is strange – these are being sent by businesses to their customers, and the problem here is that in some cases, charges for SMS updates could be passed on to customers. For example, if there are server related alerts from hosting service providers, they will be forced to charge customers an additional fee for it. If I’ve booked a flight ticket, the cost of sending an alert with the PNR number and flights could be incorporated into a convenience fee.
The reason for increasing these charges could be that the transactional pipe was being misued by service providers; for example, Jabong sending me an SMS alert about a sale or a good deal on its site is not a transactional message, even though it was being sent via the transactional pipe.
The reason for an overall increase in SMS charges could be because some telecom operators are trying to cover the cost of declining SMS usage, with an increase in the data pie.
Overall, we see this change in SMS charges as a negative – SMS Spam has reduced (even though it hasn’t ended), so this was unnecessary.
Regulating SMS Spam timeline
In September 2011, TRAI had directed all access providers to limit sending of more than 100 SMS per day per SIM or 3000 SMS per month per SIM and ensure that any commercial communication including SMS, other than transactional messages, is sent to a customer only between 0900 Hrs to 2100 Hrs. TRAI had also relaxed 100 SMS per day restriction for e-tickets, social networks, directories, DTH & More.
In July 2012, the Delhi High Court removed the 200 SMS/day limit through a mobile phone SIM for personal communications, stating that the current SMS spam guidelines infringe the freedom of speech of the citizens, and the conditions imposed upon citizens are not reasonable.
In November 2012, TRAI had issued a new directive, asking all telecom providers to take additional measures for controlling SMS spam. It had also set free SMS cap to 100 SMS per day, after which each SMS would cost more than 50 paise per SMS.
In December 2012, the Indian Supreme Court had put a stay on Telecom tribunal, Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) order which had quashed the TRAI’s directive of limiting the number of SMS to 200 per day, per SIM
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