Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Monday, December 07, 2009

NTC expanding telco billing reform

Written by Miguel R. Camus / Business Mirror Reporter

THE National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) plans to expand its newly implemented billing scheme currently covering calls among cell phone users, to include those made to wireless and traditional landlines.

On Sunday, the regulator started a billing regime which effectively requires telecommunication firms to charge local cell phone-to-cell phone calls by six second “pulses” instead of the traditional per-minute charge.

Based on the rates approved by the NTC, the cost of a full minute should not exceed the assumed prevailing rate of P7.50, thereby giving consumers the option to pay for the time actually used at no extra cost.

Beyond this, the NTC is also working on new rules to include wireless and traditional landlines in the per pulse billing scheme.

“Eventually this will follow,” said NTC deputy commissioner Douglas Michael N. Mallillin at the sidelines of a press briefing held Saturday.

He explained that there is a growing popularity for calls between cell phone and landlines, which is not covered by the six-second billing scheme. Mallillin said it makes sense for landlines to follow suit since their usage might drop if consumers feel that they can save more through cell phone-to-cell phone voice calls.

He declined to comment on a specific time frame, however, noting that public hearings in Congress will still have to be held.

This is part of the NTC’s longer term goal to bring down local mobile call billing on a per-second charge, similar to the US, Hong Kong and Singapore.

“We are going on six and eventually [if we can] per second,” said Mallillin.

Already ahead of this, Ayala-led Globe Telecom offered a new per second billing scheme to coincide with the NTC regime.

Globe and Touch Mobile users will be charged 5 centavos per second on Sunday and 10 centavos per second for the rest of the week.

This amounts to P3 per minute on Sunday and P6 per minute from Monday to Saturday.

"We hope to stimulate and drive call usage among heavy texters, especially during this season," said Globe president Ernest L. Cu.

The landmark six-second pulse billing was a result of the collaboration—in the wake of a clamor from consumer groups—between the NTC, the Philippine Senate and major telecommunication firms Sun Cellular, Smart Communications Inc. and Globe Telecom Inc.

The rules, which took effect 12:01 a.m. Sunday, will initially cover intra-network calls (meaning those within the same network such as Globe to Globe, Smart to Smart and Sun to Sun calls). Cross-network calls for the new regime will start on December 16, after the major telcos asked for an extension to prepare their systems.

The major telcos had earlier asked the NTC to move the implementation date to the end of January 2010, citing difficulties arising from increased network traffic in December.

The new regime is also assigned as the default billing mode, meaning subscribers can be charged on the minute-per-pulse basis if they actively enroll in those schemes.

Under the rule, the NTC said that for the 10 six- second pulses in a minute, the first two pulses or 12 seconds shall not exceed the “flagdown rate” of P3; while the remaining eight shall not exceed the P7.50 prevailing rate for the full minute.

For instance, at the flagdown rate of P3 with the succeeding pulses costing P0.56 each, the total bill for a 30-second voice call will only be P4.59 compared to the full-minute charge of P7.50 under the old scheme.

The cost per pulse for succeeding minutes after the first will cost P0.75 each.

“The consuming public will be happier with this regime. The [new] system is already an advantage to the consuming public,” said Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile at the briefing.

Smart Communications and Sun Celluar officials could not be reached for comment yesterday. Globe

Mallillin said the NTC will monitor the new rates over the next two to three months to determine the effects on the telco firms and consumers.

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