Thailand’s mobile operators have been told to stop dragging their feet in moving away from per-minute billing and likely will have six to 12 months to make the shift to per-second charging.
The country’s leading operators – AIS, dtac, True Move, CAT Telecom and TOT – met with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) this week and agreed to offer per-second billing on a promotional basis during a six-month trial period.
But the military government’s National Reform Council, which is reportedly behind the push, has insisted that the move to per-second billing must be permanent and cover both prepaid and postpaid subscribers.
The country’s regulator has long pushed for the move, but the government has yet to implement a new policy. Most operators across the region moved to per-second billing years ago. India’s mobile players started introducing it back in 2009, resulting in a 10-15 per cent drop in revenue. It wasn’t until 2012 that the regulator made it mandatory. China still has per-minute charging. But with cost of voice declining and users moving to data plans, the issue has had little attention over the past couple of years.
The NBTC’s telecom committee is expected to propose new regulations this month, which will be open to public consultation before being sent to the National Legislative Assembly for approval.
The assembly has estimated that the shift to per-second billing would save consumers millions of baht per month since they are currently charged a full minute even if they only talk a few seconds, Thai PBS said.
Thai operators in the past have opposed the new charging policy, arguing that their interconnection charging is done on a per-minute basis. To make it more attractive for operators to implement the change, the NBTC said it will soon reduce the mobile termination rate, which is currently THB0.45 ($0.014) per minute, The Nation said.
The operators, which will have to modified their IT and billing systems to implement the per-second charging, said the trial will only cover domestic calls since international calls are charged on a six-second basis.
NBTC said operators need to upgrade their systems so customers can check their balances online in real time.