Here’s a good news for folks who use SMS. Short messaging service (SMS) that has become one of the prime communication media may soon get cheaper. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), the market regulator of telecom services in India, has put the reduction of SMS rates on its agenda. Speaking to this correspondent, Trai chairman, Mr Nripendra Misra, said the SMS rates have remained unchanged since past four to five years, while tariff for voice calls has come down drastically. This, he says, has brought down the usage of SMS among people as they prefer making calls than SMSes.
“Sometimes, a certain tariff becomes an accepted price by all service providers and then competition becomes a casualty,” said Mr Misra. Though both voice and SMS prices are in forbearance, he said there is more competition in voice and, therefore, more reduction. “We have told telecom companies that though we recognise that SMS rates are on forbearance but they could look into it. We feel SMS rates are high and should be re-examined by the companies themselves,” he said. Mr Misra, however, declined to specify as to what strategy the telecom regulator will follow to bring down the SMS prices. “I can’t tell you my strategy,” he said.
Mr Misra seemed satisfied at the current level of voice call tariffs. “The power crisis in the country is a result of consumers’ demand for free electricity. So you always have to maintain a fine balance between freebies and price,” he said. Mr Misra said the tendency to give anything for free ultimately ends up helping the rich and not the poor. “In whatever way you give subsidy, it always have the same effect,” he said.
“While I would like the tariff to come down, I won’t like it to come down at the cost of the industry. I don’t want it to come down in a manner that hinders expansion in rural areas, where the telecom density is just nine per cent,” said Trai chairman. In order to build infrastructure in rural areas, Mr Misra said the telecom companies need to generate investable surpluses. “The market forces are working satisfactorily. The competition is genuine. If some reduction in tariff comes it is welcome but we are not guiding it,” said Mr Misra. On Trai’s consultation paper on allowing consumers to make STD and local calls through Internet, Mr Misra said that the regulator is examining it and will give its recommendations within a fortnight.