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Trai wake-up ring on calling cards

Date: 10/18/2010 5:54:42 PM

he telecom regulator wants mobile operators to sign agreements between themselves to allow customers of one operator use long-distance calling cards of another, a move that could lower STD and ISD call rates.

The department of telecom (DoT) last year allowed all long-distance operators to sell prepaid calling cards directly to customers, but not all operators have signed agreements to offer the service.

Called intelligent network (IN), the service allows a Vodafone subscriber to buy a calling card from any other operator, say Verizon, which is offering the cheapest STD or ISD rates.

By punching some numbers specified in the package, the Vodafone customer gets on to the Verizon network and makes calls. However, Vodafone and Verizon need to have an agreement to provide connectivity to allow customers to make the call.

Globally, calling cards are offered by a large number of long-distance operators, which has resulted in tariff reduction by 20-53 per cent.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has proposed that all long-distance operators should sign agreements within three months of the notification of the amendment to the intelligent network (IN) regulations.

Trai officials said the regulator intended to bring the amendment into force after November 3.

“A draft amendment to IN regulations proposes that service providers who are already providing IN services should enter into an agreement with all access providers within 90 days of the date of amendment. Service providers who start IN services at a later date should enter into an agreement within 90 days of the start of the services,” said Trai.

The regulator is empowered to fix tariffs for telecom services under Section 11(2) of Trai Act, 1997.

“The calling card service is expected to be a boon for new players for maximising revenue,” said analysts, adding that the move would bring down long-distance tariffs further.

“The move would allow standalone long-distance call providers such as AT&T and Verizon to offer very low rates to individuals who will now be free to use their services, much like what happens in countries such as the US,” said Sudipto Basu, telecom analyst.

There are 24 long-distance licence holders in the country, including PowerGrid, RailTel, Gail, Sify, AT&T, Cable & Wireless, SingTel, Verizon, France Telecom (Orange) and Tulip Telecom.

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