NTRC should step in

I want to jump in the discussion which LIME’s drastic reduction move has started as it relates to benefits that can be derived from open competition in the market place to us consumers.

I humbly call on all fellow Grenadians to join in to call on the National Telecoms Regulatory Commission (NTRC) to act in the interest of us consumers. It is instructive to note that this is a call made by LIME’s Country Manager who has been doing a great job to enlighten us on this issue.

Who would have ever thought that the telecommunications industry would have reached to the point where it would have experienced deregulation to the ultimate benefit of consumers?  Of course with Cable & Wireless being in the vanguard for years on end, we got accustomed to how things functioned then. Then came deregulation and other carriers came into the market and customers started to see a difference in mobile rates.

Alas, a little competition has been easing in the land line market as FLOW has recently started it offerings there. Customers should have no objection to that because a capitalist market offers everyone choices in services and rates.

The recent big move of LIME to offer one low rate across the region in the respective CARICOM member states, is one such benefit to consumers across the English speaking Caribbean.

This development has brought with it some controversy with LIME pulling out all the stops to reverse the trend of loss of market share. The following is a robust well researched contribution sent in by a citizen versed on the issue whose intention is to share information for the edification of all.

“Jamaica is leading the Caribbean market in what should be a trend to be followed by Grenada’s regulator and ECTEL. The Office of Utilities Regulations took the decision to sharply reduce the cost of calling between operators in Jamaica.

Mobile operators charge each other a Mobile Termination Rate (MTR) when calls are passed between them. That fee is passed on to retail customers in their bills and is the primary reason why calling between operators is often more expensive than calls made to users on the same network.

Mobile Termination rates in the International market is as low as EC$0.05 when compared to rates in Grenada of EC$0.251 per minute or around US$0.09.

Customers around the world and more recently Jamaica have been realising some significant benefits as their providers agreed to pass the savings from the rate reductions to their customers. This is where our regulator, the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) should aim to be.  The role of the regulator should be to look after the interest of Consumers.

The decision by Jamaica’s Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to slash MTRs beg the question, why are Grenadian consumers still paying such high mobile rates?

According to LIME Grenada’s Country Manager – Mr. Angus Steele, Why are ECTEL and the local NTRC not doing more to impose cost-based pricing in the interest of consumers, especially in these hard economic times? If they did, it would be virtual blessing, particularly for consumers who want to call between networks.

With lower cross network calling rates, no longer will Grenadians have to constantly worry about which network their friends are on before calling them.

NTRC and ECTEL have both fallen behind international best practice as MTRs have been reduced the world over in recent years; yet in Grenada they remain stubbornly high.

In the OECD countries, rates have decreased significantly and there is currently ongoing debate among OECD regulators about reducing rates further, and even phasing out MTRs completely, thereby allowing greater savings to be passed on to consumers.

Dr. James Fletcher Chairman of ECTEL recently expressed the view that telecommunications rates in the region (alluding to the five ECTEL Member States, including Grenada) are too high, particularly for mobile phone services – now the region’s primary mode of communication.

Given the extreme economic difficulties that Grenadians currently face, ECTEL/NTRC needs to do more than raise concerns – they need to review current MTRs as a matter of urgency.

Consumers and the business community need to make their voices heard and demand that steps be taken to further lower mobile termination rates.

It’s about time our Regulators focus on what should be their main objective and look after the interest of consumers.

I humbly submit that our NTRC should act and act now!




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