Govt dismisses Congress accusation; says mobile tariffs decided by market forces

New Delhi, July 6 (UNI) The government has dismissed Congress’s accusation on Friday of fleecing subscribers due to an increase in mobile tariffs by three private operators as “misleading” and said the current mobile services market operates through the market forces of demand and supply.

Since the last two decades, the rates of mobile services have been kept under “forbearance” by the sector regulator, TRAI. The policies of the government and regulatory framework notified by TRAI has resulted into one of the lowest costs for subscribers of mobile services in India, the Ministry of Communications said in response to Congress’s attack on the government.

The Congress has accused the government for allowing private telecom operators, Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea, to increase mobile tariffs by an average of 15 percent within days after the general elections were over, a move that would put a financial burden of a whopping Rs 34,824 crore annually on the general public.

Pointing out that the date of announcement of the increase of tariffs appears to be clearly in consultation with each other by the three private operators, and secondly, the date of effective implementation of the increased tariffs is the same, the Congress said that the Modi government must answer that how can private cellphone companies be permitted to “unilaterally increase” tariffs by Rs 34,824 crore annually without any oversight or regulation by the government.

“Has the Modi Government and TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) abdicated their duty and responsibility towards 109 crore mobile phone users?” the Congress party said.

The DoT has hit back and said that, as per the Provisions of the TRAI Act 1997, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), an independent regulator for telecommunication services, regulates the rates of telecommunication services in the country.

The DoT also provided comparative tariffs for mobile services in various countries, claiming that India has one of the lowest mobile tariffs.

For a minimum mobile, voice, and data basket consisting of 140 minutes + 70 SMS + 2GB, a comparison of mobile service pricing, as published by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) (2023), in some of the neighbouring and advanced countries shows that in the case of India, at an average price of 1.89 USD per month, practically unlimited voice and 18GB per month is available to mobile subscribers, DoT said.

“The licensee will charge the tariffs for the service as per the Tariff orders/ regulations/ directions/decisions issued by TRAI form time to time. The licensee shall also fulfil requirements regarding the publication of tariffs, notifications, and provision of information as directed by TRAI through its orders/ regulations/ directions issued from time to time as per the provisions of TRAI Act, 1997, as amended from time to time,” the DoT statement said.

In India, presently, mobile services are being delivered by three private sector licensees and one public sector licensee. From a competitive point of view, this is an optimal market structure for mobile services, the government said.

The rates of telecommunication services are decided by “market forces” within the regulatory framework notified by the independent regulator TRAI. The government does not intervene in free market decisions as functionality is under the domain of TRAI and tariffs are under forbearance.

Any change in the tariff of mobile services is notified by TSPs to the TRAI, which monitors that such changes are within the prescribed regulatory framework.

It is pertinent to mention here that the TSPs have increased the prices of mobile services after more than 2 years. In the last two years, some of the TSPs have invested heavily in rolling out 5G services across the country. This has resulted into a significant increase in median mobile speed to the level of 100 Mbps and a jump in India’s international rank from 111 in October 2022 to 15 today.

While protecting the interests of subscribers for the orderly growth of the telecommunication sector, which includes investments in the latest technologies like 5G, 6G, IoT/ M2M for Industry 4.0, etc., the financial viability of the sector is important, DoT said.

The DoT said that before the last 10 years, the telecommunication sector was mired in controversies lack of transparency, and therefore, the growth of mobile services was stagnant.

During the last 10 years, due to the progressive policies of the government, the rates of telecommunication services, be it voice or data, have fallen exponentially. The government has been a beneficiary of a large amount of non-tax revenue from spectrum auctions, which has been fully transparent and efficient.

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