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Days numbered for high mobile rates

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The days of high cost for cell phone calls are numbered.

Minister of Telecommunications Dr Jerrol Thompson said that a study to be released next week by the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) supports a case for lower rates.

“In the past there was an old costing model which allowed Cable & Wireless to charge and fix a certain type of rate and we felt their cost was much lower,” he told SEARCHLIGHT.{{more}}

“The study has indicated that there is no reason why there should be an international rate of 37 cents and a local/regional domestic rate of 62 and 55 cents depending on the time of day or time of week and their conclusion is that the cost should not be any higher than 37 cents and in fact it should be lower because the 37 cents is usually split between the carrier abroad and here.”

“We are very keen on rates being lowered as soon as possible,” Thompson said. “I think because of the issue of process and transparency this may take a few more months but I am cautious about saying the government will bring down prices because this is being conducted by a regulatory body and this regulatory body is independent of government and must be allowed to do its work but we are very hopeful that for the benefit of the people in business in the region that we should see much lower prices.”

Thompson also said that Cable & Wireless has just applied to the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) in Dominica to reduce the cost of cell calls from 65 cents to 37 cents and he is waiting to see whether the commission will fast track the application or whether it will go through a process of consultation to allow companies such as Digicel, consumer bodies and members of the public to make a contribution in support or against the application.

In St Lucia, the Minister of Telecommunication, Felix Finisterre, said that should his party be returned to office they will review the rates.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves told a news conference Monday that his government was eager for a reduction of rates but it had to be done within ECTEL.

“I am quite sure that, and it is normal that the impending democratic imperatives of that exercise which is upon us in St Lucia probably acted as a sharper catalyst than perhaps would otherwise have been the case but all the governments in ECTEL are supportive of that broad position of the St Lucian government but we want to work it out regionally which I think is only fair and reasonable.”

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