Interconnection charges key to reducing telecom rates

A new consumer advocacy group, Txtmate, claimed that the recent policies issued by the National Telecommunication Commission would not significantly reduce the cost of telecommunication in the country, as this does not tackle the issue of interconnection charges.  Txtmate, which had its origin at the University of the Philippines, said it has now over 2,000 fans in Facebook.

Mr. Marcelino Veloso III, spokesperson of txtmate, said the most important issue, that which could single-handedly revolutionize the mobile industry today, remains ignored, swept under the rug of easy-to-grant demands.  “We refer to interconnection fees, also known as access charges, and the NTC draft proposals to gradually lower the same on both calls and text,” Veloso said noting that the high interconnection rates has resulted in the Philippines having the most expensive mobile call rates in all of Asia.

He said reducing access charges will bring down call and text rates for the benefit of the consumer, resulting in an explosion of call and text traffic and translate to more profits for telecom firms and higher tax collections for the government.  It’s a win-win situation that deserves focus by the public, and action by the NTC itself, he added.

The NTC has yet to tackle the issue of interconnection charges, which has been pending with the commission for several years now.

A draft circular prepared by the NTC last year called for the reduction in interconnection charges for voice calls between mobile operators from P4 per minute to P1.50 per minute.

The NTC noted that interconnection charges or termination rates  to mobile service operators in Thailand and Malaysia were only about P1.30 to P1.70 per minute.
The three memorandum circulars it issued last week drew a howl from telecom players, which warned that they may stop their promos on unlimited text and unlimited calls.

Globe Telecom legal counsel Rodolfo Salalima, in a television interview, admitted that the circulars would hurt the profitability of the telecom firms.

Smart Communications has refused to provide comment on the NTC policies, pending its discussion with the NTC.

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