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Talk gets cheap - Reduced mobile rates coming in weeks

Published:Wednesday | May 29, 2013 | 12:00 AM
This should push the cross-network rates well below the high of $14 per minute and the low of $6.99 per minute.

Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor

Jamaicans could be seeing further reductions in the cost of telephone calls within weeks. Telecommunications sources have told The Gleaner that the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) has made a final determination of mobile termination rates which is well below the $5-per-minute interim rate implemented last July.

This should push the cross-network rates - from one provider to another - well below the high of $14 per minute and the low of $6.99 per minute.

Yesterday, the OUR pointed The Gleaner to Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell for information on the new rate while arguing that he was the one to make the announcement, even though it had made the disclosure of the interim rate last year.

At that time, the OUR said the reduced termination rate - from approximately $9 to $5 per minute - would remain in place pending the completion of the long-run incremental cost model which would be used to determine the final rate.

"The power to set the interim rate was conferred on the office with the recent passage and signing into law of the Telecommunications (Amendment) Act 2012," declared the OUR.

Significant rate reduction

That was confirmed by Paulwell in his Budget Debate presentation late last month.

"The Telecoms Amendment Act passed by Parliament last year brought a number of major changes to the local telecoms landscape, one of them a significant reduction in the rates for mobile calls," Paulwell said then.

"This was the direct result of the act conferring on the Office of Utilities Regulation the express power to set interconnection charges and an interim price cap for retail rates for telecoms services."

He told Parliament that "the OUR will again reduce the mobile termination rates, and that very soon consumers will begin to enjoy even further reduced mobile rates".

In the weeks following the OUR's announcement last year, both major providers announced reduced rates for their customers and yesterday chairman of LIME, Chris Dehring, told The Gleaner that his entity could reduce rates even further.

"You have to remember that this process started in 2004, so we are excited that it is finally coming to a conclusion," said Dehring.

"We are excited about the prospects for the company and for the consumers," added Dehring as he argued that calling rates were the only price that had gone down in the past few years.

According to Dehring, LIME will ensure that consumers benefit from any lowering of the termination rates.

Yesterday, Digicel said it was currently awaiting the final determination on mobile termination rates from the OUR.

"Once we receive the information from the OUR, we will conduct a review," Digicel said in a release.

"In keeping with our mandate over the past 12 years, Digicel remains committed to delivering the very best value to customers across Jamaica."