The Telecommunications Authority must verify the accuracy of mobile phone bills

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The Nepal Telecommunications Authority is establishing a monitoring service to verify the accuracy of billing and billing for mobile services, as increasingly complex and rapidly changing tariffs for telecommunication and internet services create problems of consumer dissatisfaction with overbilling and potential penalties by the regulator.

The system would have been introduced earlier because consumers have long complained of being charged unnecessarily and unknowingly when using telecom services.

“The authority would have launched the system earlier, but it is now being introduced as part of its annual program,” said Surya Prasad Lamichhane, deputy director. “It might take the current year to complete the project.

According to a notice released on Tuesday, the government has allocated funds for the purchase of a monitoring service to verify meter billing and the accuracy of mobile billing.

According to Article 17 of the Telecommunications Act 1997, the Nepalese Telecommunications Authority is empowered to inspect or investigate the activities carried out or the services provided by the license holder at any time. Due to limited resources for billing complaints, authority depends on the billing systems of telecom operators.

The authority said it now intends to conduct monitoring of certain services on a sample basis independently without the knowledge of mobile operators to verify whether their billing and billing system meter is reliable or not.

The consulting company will set up a billing audit system without prior knowledge of the telecom service provider and also without integration with the mobile operators’ system. The consultant will test and perform measurements of voice, data, SMS and VAS services, simulating actual customer behavior during peak and normal hours, the authority said.

The designed measures will verify the accuracy of invoices issued by mobile operators for voice, data, SMS, value-added services (VAS) against the tariffs and pulse durations approved by the Telecommunications Authority of Nepal for 2G, 3G and 4G services independently without system integration with mobile operators.

The advisory service will be called by international companies, in accordance with the authority. The authority requested expressions of interest to provide consultancy services for the design, performance of tests and measurements.

The authority recently expressed deep concern after Internet service providers began setting service charges or tariffs on their own without its approval.

There is strong competition in the market to provide service packages over 100 Mbps at competitive rates. In accordance with Section 42 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 and the condition of license, an authority-approved telecommunications service provider must approve service charges or tariffs for the service provided to customers.

The relevant stakeholder said that competition is quite unhealthy in the market with service providers apparently focused on increasing the number of customers rather than the quality of service by offering broadband packages at lower prices.

Currently, state-owned telecommunications giant Nepal Telecom charges Rs 1.50 per minute for voice calls within its network and Rs 2 per minute for making calls to other networks at prepaid GSM rates. It charges Rs1 on SMS within the Nepal Telecom network and Rs1.25 when sending messages to other operators. These charges are exclusive of tax.

Ncell charged Rs1.99 while making voice calls within its network and other networks, and Rs1 over SMS within its network and Rs1.27 while sending messages to other telecom networks .

According to the Least Developed Countries Connectivity Status Report 2021 released by the International Telecommunication Union, more than 90 percent of households in Nepal have at least one family member with a mobile phone.

In addition, 96 percent of Nepalese households have a mobile phone of which 97 percent are urban households and 94 percent are rural households.

As of mid-November, there were 41.55 million voice phone users in the country including 40.73 million cell phone users, according to the authority’s management and information system report.

The country has a total of 35.34 million broadband users, 7.45 million fixed broadband users (wired and wireless) and 27.73 million mobile broadband users.

According to the Least Developed Countries Connectivity Situation Report 2021, a Nepalese man had to spend 2.6% of his gross annual income to purchase internet service in 2020, which puts Nepal behind India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in affordable digital access where the cost is less than 1 percent.

Broadband services in developing countries are not expected to cost more than 2% of gross national income per capita, according to the report.

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