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Oftel restates call for mobile phone charge cut

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Oftel has restated its call for mobile phone operators to cut the cost of calls for consumers.

In a statement today Oftel boss David Edmonds said: "Calling someone on their mobile phone is expensive because consumers have no option but to pay the connection charge set by the operator of the network they call.

"Oftel believes that measures are needed to require the mobile operators to reduce their call termination charges, which should result in cheaper calls to mobile phones."

The telecoms regulator wants to see three annual cuts of around 15 per cent a year over the next three years to help make life easier for punters.

If all this sounds a tad familiar, then you're right. It is. In April, Oftel ordered the UK's four mobile phone operators to slash charges for making calls to their mobile networks. This followed a review of the market completed in January by the Competition Commission.

Both Oftel and the Competition Commission agreed that punters pay too much for calls to mobile phones and that the mobile operators - O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone - must cut their termination charges for these calls.

So why this latest intervention? Well, it's all to do with Oftel reviewing the matter as part of its work to implement new EC Directives on electronic communications networks by 25 July. Make sense now? To us neither.

Anyhow, a judicial review obtained by the mobile network operators on the original price cut order is due to be heard some time next month.

Oftel has ordered the mobile operators to make the first 15 per cent cut by July. The big beneficiaries of lower termination rates will be BT and BT customers calling mobile phones from landlines.

Only it may not working out like this: Orange, for instance, has raised pre-paid rates in response, and other network operators are expected to follow suit.

With the new review, Oftel will be able to examine if the network operators have breached the spirit of its order to implement cuts.

And one last thing. Oftel also said it had no intend to regulate the 3G market since this offers "new and innovative services and inappropriate regulation at this stage could damage the evolution of this new market". ®

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