LAHORE - All the cellular users, numbered in several millions, are forced to pay high off-net call costs in Pakistan as state-run telecom regulator is in a fix over reducing the Mobile Termination Rate (MTR) despite the lapse of over a year.
Industry sources said that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had sought Cellular Mobile Operators’ opinion to reduce rates for off-net calls last year since the current rates were considered to be 200 percent higher than the regional countries. According to a PTA report, reduction in rates would not only help operators offer better off-net call rates but also help decrease grey traffic since demand for illegal means of calling will reduce.
MTR means the price a telecom company charges another telecom company for receiving a call on its network. In other words, landline-to-mobile and mobile-to-mobile interconnection charges, called Mobile Termination Rate, have not been revised since the last MTR review in 2008. Experts said that Pakistan’s MTR should be between Rs0.30 to Rs0.40 per minute once purchasing power parity is adjusted.
Industry sources said that alarmingly, Pakistan’s MTR is highest in the South East Asia which is Rs0.90 per minute while in India’s it is 0.21, Bangladesh’s 0.22 and Sri Lanka’s 0.32.
The PTA had taken a remarkable decision in September 2017 to consult the telecom companies over proposed reduction in MTR. After thorough consultations, the telecom regulator prepared a key consultative paper which recommended lowering MTR from Rs 0.90 per minute to Rs 0.80 per minute between December 1, 2017 and November 30, 2018, and Rs 0.70 per minute from next month (December).
However, even after the passage of more than a year, these proposals are yet to be materialized. Allegedly, the bureaucratic hurdles involving the functioning of PTA and apathy of federal government are the main reasons the authorities have stayed oblivion to giving relief to the consumers by reducing MTR.
The stakeholders believe that telecom consumers across Pakistan as well as the cellular operators have pinned their hopes on the incumbent federal government that has long been claiming of streamlining the functioning of the government institutions and facilitating the public.
Recently, the government moved to get the PTA’s affairs in order by forming a panel for the appointment of chairman and members of the telecom regulator but the crucial issues involving the PTA like high MTR are yet to be looked into.
In addition, the industry sources say the much needed reduction in MTR would end the hegemony of ‘big’ telecom operators by encouraging competition. If MTR is reduced, these operators would be forced to improve the quality of their services instead of merely benefiting from their market share. “It would be a win-win situation for all the industry, the consumers, the PTA, the government everyone. Consumers would benefit the most with the reduction in call charges,” sources said.
“PTA requires a complete restructuring to operate efficiently. At the same time, the issues concerning the consumers should not be ignored. It is hoped that the federal government would honour its commitments to ensure good governance and grant relief to the public,” they added.