Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Customers will now have a greater understanding of the rates set by the three mobile carriers operating in the Territory after a historic move by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) to impose set wholesale prices for calls to competing networks.
Under the Telecommunications Act, 2006, the TRC is empowered to regulate the wholesale termination charges that each network operator must pay to another to terminate a phone call on another network.
Last year, the TRC designated CCT, Digicel and LIME as dominant in the termination of calls to mobile numbers and LIME as also dominant in the termination of calls to fixed numbers.
The Directive sets out the new regulated rates as $0.05 per minute to call a mobile network and $0.01 per minute to call a fixed line network.
"This means that when a BVI mobile customer calls a fixed line customer, their network must pay $0.01 per minute to the fixed line operator. Similarly, when a BVI mobile customer calls another BVI mobile customer on another network, their mobile network operator must pay $0.05 per minute to the terminating network. The regulated mobile termination rate remains unchanged from its current level whilst the fixed termination rate has been reduced from $0.03 per minute," the TRC explained.
According to the TRC, the regulated rates apply for two years from August 1, 2012 to July 31, 2014. At the end of the two year period, the TRC is expected to review the rates to ensure they remain in line with Caribbean benchmarks.
Sarah Hayes, Chief Economist of the TRC explained that a benchmarking approach has been used to set the rates and pointed out that the mobile termination rate has always been relatively low for the region. She said that given the fall in mobile termination rates across the rest of the region, the BVI rates are very much in line with regional averages over the period of regulation.
"The fixed termination rate on the other hand has been relatively high compared to other Caribbean countries and so we see it as necessary to bring this rate down in line with Caribbean benchmarks to ensure that the fixed termination service is priced in line with cost. We hope that the operators will pass these cost savings on to their customers," Hayes stated.
Guy Lester Malone, CEO of the TRC said that "this regulation following a determination of dominance sets a precedent for regulating the telecommunications sector in the BVI".
"This is the first time we have imposed such regulations on the operators and under the continuing market analysis, we will be looking at other markets to assess for dominance and imposing further regulatory obligations if we see that it is necessary in order to protect the interests of the BVI consumer," Malone pointed out.