The mobile phone industry has once again come under fire over charging. Telecomms watchdog Oftel yesterday slammed the cost of calls to mobile phones from fixed lines as too high, and called for charges to be cut up by one-third.
Prices of calls from BT's network to mobile systems such as Vodafone and Cellnet are too high, said Oftel director general, Don Cruickshank, ?mainly because they (the mobile operators) charge too much for delivering calls to customers on their networks?. But he also claimed BT?s retail costs are excessive and will be the subject of further investigation.p> The conclusions are outlined in a consultative paper by Oftel. Said Cruickshank: ?When we started this investigation calls from BT to Cellnet and Vodafone cost 38p per minute: in my view the average retail rate to call a mobile network from a BT phone might come down by another 10p per minute.? Currently, BT-based calls to the two mobile operators cost 32p per minute, and 26p per minute to an Orange or One2One phone.
Around three-quarters of this charge goes to the mobile operators to deliver calls from fixed networks to their customers. The rest is kept by BT. Oftel has called for mobile phone companies to negotiate lower interneconnection charges with each other.
Chris Gent, chief executive of Vodafone, said: ?What customers pay is determined by the cost of equipment, monthly rental, incoming call rates and outgoing call rates. Competition has benefited the consumers who, on balance, enjoy the lowest cost of ownership anywhere in Europe.?
Cellnet said it would reduce its interconnection charges to BT by at least 7.5 per cent below the retail price index, for the next four years. Oftel has also suggested that users should no longer pay high charges to cover the cost of subsidised handsets. The mobile companies disagree, saying calls would increase by around 4p per minute.
The regulator also plans to prefix all mobile phone numbers with the code 07 to ensure customers know they are dialling a mobile number.
Last week, seven mobile phone airtime suppliers agreed to cut their tariffs and to make their contracts more flexible after calls from the Office of Fair Trading.
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