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Phone rentals hiked for commercial subscribers

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NEW DELHI, March 14

COMMERCIAL subscribers of basic telephone services will have to shell out higher monthly rentals. The increase varies depending upon the line capacity of their telephone exchange, starting April 1.

As per the 20th amendment to the Telecom Tariff Order, 1999, notified by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Thursday, the urban commercial subscriber in a telephone exchange with a capacity of up to 29,999 lines will have to pay a monthly rental of Rs 160 per month as against the earlier Rs 120 per month. Similarly, for exchange capacity of 30,000 to 99,999 lines, the commercial subscriber will have to pay Rs 220 per month (as against Rs 180) and one lakh and above capacity will have to pay Rs 310 (against Rs 250).

The increase for rural commercial subscribers remains the same across the exchange capacity slab, except for the fact that an additional slab of "up to 999 lines'', where the monthly rental has been increased to Rs 120 per month from Rs 70 per month.

Apart from the clear division in monthly rentals between commercial and non-commercial subscribers for the first time, the authority has also decided to reduce the number of applicable free calls for commercial subscribers to 30 metered calls of the billing cycle in the urban areas and 45 metered calls per month of the billing cycle for rural areas.

TRAI has noted that the monthly rentals for other subscribers will remain unchanged, i.e. the present rental levels will continue. For operational simplicity, the authority also decided that for the present, the low user subscriber category and general user subscriber category should be combined into a single category of "non-commercial user subscriber''.

"Commercial" user subscriber shall mean and include a person and/or an establishment carrying on any trade, business or profession or any work in connection with or incidental or ancillary thereto.

"The authority in its amendment notification has pointed out that the standard tariff package in the TTO'99 had envisaged a decrease in STD/ISD call charges and an increase in rentals in order to rebalance tariffs and prepare the grounds for further opening up of the basic services market. The recent market-driven decrease in STD call charges has more than achieved the decline in domestic long-distance tariffs envisaged as part of the tariff rebalancing exercise.

"The authority is of the opinion that the tariff rebalancing exercise should be such that it protects the interests of the ordinary/general subscribers, sustains demand and helps achieve higher tele-density.

In a fresh exercise of tariff review, which is under way, it is envisaged to make a detailed analysis of rentals for basic services, keeping in mind the evolving market conditions and network expansion.

The present set of third tranche tariffs is, therefore, acceptance of the applicability of the earlier rebalancing exercise in the current context," it has said.

The authority has also noted that for STD and ISD calls, the tariffs prescribed in the TTO'99 for the third tranche of tariff rebalancing will now be the converted to ceiling rates, since market competition has already resulted in the prevailing tariffs being much lower than those specified.

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