Flagdown rate on mobile phone calls

There will be a 12-second flag down rate on mobile phone calls in the Philippines beginning 9th August 2009, after the government regulator National Telecommunication Commission or NTC issued a new circular changing the unit of billing for cellular mobile telephone service or CMTS from per-minute charging to six-seconds per-pulse.  It is expected to result in cheaper voice calls.

On 23rd July 2009, th NTC issued Memorandum Circular No. 05-07-2009, which set at six seconds per pulse the maximum unit of billing for the cellular phone calls of both postpaid or prepaid subscribers.  The circular is to take effect by next month, or 15 days after its publication.  It also established a flag down rate equivalent to first two pulses or a period of 12 seconds, which may be charged a minimum rate.

However, no rates have been set yet, as to how much a 12-second voice call will cost. Currently, the cost of voice call from one network to another is P6.50 per minute. 

Before this, the commission recalled MC 13-06-2000, which ordered the change in billing of mobile phone calls to six seconds per pulse as early as nine years ago.  That circular was never implemented because of a court injunction filed by telecom companies that objected to a two-year expiry period of prepaid cards, registration of mobile phone's SIM card, six-second pulse billing of voice calls, and interconnection agreements.

Now, the NTC asked the mobile phone operators to adjust their rates according to the latest circular, which restored the six-second pulse billing.

Under the new circular, “the rate for the first two pulses, or equivalent if lower period per pulse is used, may be higher than the succeeding pulses to recover the cost of the call set-up.” 
The NTC asked the mobile phone companies to submit their respective proposed rates based on the new unit of billing within 30 days from the effectivity of the circular.

Telecom companies, however, said they are already offering cheap voice call rates through various promotions.

Philippine Long Distance Co. and Smart Communications vice president for public affairs Ramon Isberto claimed that SMS and voice call rates are now much lower, because of these promotions.

However, a provision in the new circular provides mobile subscribers an option to be billed on a one minute per pulse basis or to subscribe to unlimited service offerings or any service offerings if they actively and knowingly enrol in the scheme.

Companies also warned that the change in billing would result in technical problems with regards to billing.

To this, the NTC said “CMTS providers and their interconnected network and service providers should perform the necessary adjustments in their respective networks and systems to comply with herein prescribed unit of billing not later than one hundred twenty days from the effectivity of this circular.”

Smart, Globe Telecom, Sun Cellular and Red Mobile have existing promos on unlimited calls.

The NTC said the circular does not cover international call service of mobile phone operators.

With regards to calls from one network to another, the regulator said interconnection agreements between cellular mobile telecommunication service providers and between CMTS providers and other interconnecting network and service providers shall be amended to incorporate the prescribed unit of billing within 30 days from the effectivity of the circular.

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