MPTC official maintains it will withdraw licences if firms fail to meet conditions
No matter whether they agree with it or not, they have to follow it."
THE government has said it would be flexible over new rules on minimum tariffs for the mobile sector to allow telecoms companies more time to adjust their pricing plans.
Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications Secretary of State Sarak Khan said that all operators had agreed in principle to follow the ministry’s prakas, or edict, on minimum tariffs, which was due to take effect from December 22, but said some needed additional time due to what he termed “technical problems”.
“They need more time to make some changes with the software,” he said. “We … understand their difficulties.”
The ministry was working with companies to ensure they understood the regulations and was planning to set a new deadline for compliance, he added, though it had not yet been determined.
“They have been implementing [the changes], he said. “In the name of the government, we usually help companies if they are not clear about regulations. We try to explain things to them.”
The prakas, which was signed December 7 and announced December 9, was designed to take the sting out of a price war that the government said was destabilising the sector.
It prevents operators from offering within network calls at less than US$0.045 per minute, not including taxes. Call specials of up to one month were still possible at up to half that tariff, but only with prior permission from the government.
The prakas also made binding a long-standing agreement setting the cost for cross-network calls at $0.0595 per minute.
Most operators appear to be in compliance with the pricing directive, though Smart Mobile; qb, the mobile network owned by CADCOMMS; and Beeline all have long-standing pricing policies offering free minutes or packaged deals that violate the rules.
Smart Mobile said late last month it had “severe concerns and reservations” over the new rules and that it was discussing them with the ministry. It also said the 15-day compliance window was not feasible and that its pricing policies would remain unchanged until further notice.
Ministry Director General Mao Chakrya said Monday the shifting enforcement timeframe did not mean the government was backtracking on the edict in the face of objections from operators.
“It takes time to do such a thing,” he said. “No matter whether they agree with it or not, they have to follow it. This is a new regulation.”
Sarak Khan confirmed that those who failed to comply in due course would have their licences revoked.
“We have no choice aside from this,” he said.
Beeline and CADCOMMS have both declined to comment publicly on the issue.