Raise Middle East call settlement rates, telcos urge TRAI

New Delhi, Nov 6 (IANS) Domestic telecom operators have urged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to raise international call settlement rates for the Middle East to 13 cents per minute in response to operators there increasing charges from 10 to 13 cents.

According to the telcos, this unilateral increase in rates against that of only 1.2 cents charged by Indian operators for traffic from Middle East countries is a clear ‘abuse of monopoly’.

‘The authority should not leave it to the market forces alone to address excessive international mobile termination rates because of abuse of monopoly position,’ said the operators in a letter to TRAI.

If left unchecked, excessive international settlement rates will undermine the significant success achieved in other competitive routes like USA and Canada and the Indian consumer will be the ultimate looser, it added.

The international voice traffic between the Middle East and India is mainly led by people of Indian origin settled in the Middle East. While incoming traffic to India from the Middle East is 8.5 billion minutes annually, the India-Middle East traffic is around 2.2 billion minutes.

Currently, the Indian government earns only Rs.30 crore from inbound settlement costs while it could earn up to Rs.300 crore per annum, the operators say.

Due to the higher settlement cost, the cost of calling the Middle East is higher in India, the letter says, adding that as a result, inbound traffic from the Middle East is almost four time the outbound traffic.

Since Indian operators have to make the settlement in dollars, there is a forex loss of $180 million (Rs 825 crores) due to the differential settlement cost, the letter points out.

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