TRAI may blow whistle on Bharti, Vodafone tariffs | india | Hindustan Times
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TRAI may blow whistle on Bharti, Vodafone tariffs

Telecom Watch, a Delhi-based NGO asks TRAI to intervene and warned to take the GSM players to court, reports Archana Khatri.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2007 01:23 IST
Archana Khatri

The telecom regulator may not bark, but it can bite. Informed industry sources have told Hindustan Times that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has questioned Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Essar on their decision to increase the call and SMS rates this month. TRAI Chairman Nripendra Misra is ready to step in if needed.

“He met both the companies on Friday and asked them not to increase the rates or the authority will have to bring in a consultation paper on tariffs," a source familiar with the matter said.

The consultation paper is usually a gentle but firm step that signals intervention to protect consumer interests.

Justifying the increase in tariff, the two companies had said that with an increasing subscriber base, it was becoming difficult to maintain networks to support huge additions of new users without raising tariffs.

GSM players had hiked local SMS charges, by a flat 20 per cent last Monday and STD tariffs by 20 per cent, a fortnight ago. Telecom
Watch, a Delhi-based NGO has also asked TRAI to intervene and threatened to take the two GSM players to court if they do not roll back their hikes.

“ARPU (average revenue per user) has been falling 3-4 percent every quarter," said TV Ramachandran, Director-General of the Cellular Operators Association of India. “If you notice, none of the operators has declared a dividend since they started operations”, added Ramachandran.

TRAI prepares a consultation paper to discuss issues and questions that need to be addressed. The consultation paper is released to the public, and put on the authority’s website. Written comments are invited within a specified time period. This document in fact forms the basis of open-house discussion meetings that lead to results.

Trai has earlier come out with two consultation papers on telecom tariffs through which it arrived at a policy on tariffs including the decision of putting telecom tariffs under forbearance, where the regulator will maintain patience and let market forces decide rates.