Cheaper Voice Calls Starting December 6

Starting on Sunday, the public will only pay for the time they actually use making mobile phone calls. The National Telecommunications Commission announced on Saturday a new “per pulse” rate for voice calls on cellular phones which will make billing more reflective of the real costs of a call. The new scheme does not change the per-minute cost of cell phone calls but it will reflect calls lasting less than a minute. Under the new rates, telecom firms will be allowed to charge a "flagdown" rate of P3 for the first two pulses, or a total of 12 seconds. Every succeeding pulse will then be billed. Each minute has 10 six-second pulses. To illustrate, assuming the prevailing rate is P7.50 per minute, every pulse after the flagdown rate will cost 56 centavos. After the first minute, the per-pulse charge will increase to 75 centavos. The resulting cost of a call per minute will still be P7.50 but calls under one minute will cost less. A 30-second call will cost P4.69. The new billing scheme takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday for calls made within one network. Calls made from one network to another will be covered by the per-pulse billing on Dec. 16, the NTC said, to give telecom firms more time to adjust. “The NTC issued a landmark regulation directing all cellular mobile operators to implement a six-second pulse billing mode on mobile calls to take effect on Dec. 6,” Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said in a briefing in Quezon City. The new directive is a result of a memorandum circular issued by the NTC in July after Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile criticized their billing system. In the same briefing Saturday, Enrile explained that the costs for calls were not brought down so as not to put too much pressure on telecom firms’ finances. “We have to think of the interest of the telcos here, as well as the interest of the consumers,” he said. “I think consumers will be really happy with this new regime,” he added. Cordoba said the implementation of the new rates would be observed for two to three months to see if companies are able to cope or if problems arise.

Representatives of Smart Communications, Globe Telecom and Sun Cellular could not be reached for comment as of late Saturday afternoon. The three companies earlier asked the NTC to push back the implementation of the new rates to January of next year, saying the changes in the billing system may add to the expected problems brought by increased network traffic during the holiday season.