Lawmakers urge cheaper roaming rates

IN THE MONEY:A legislator said the nation’s three largest telecoms had net profits of between NT$10.59 billion and NT$39.9 billion last year, so could afford to cut charges

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Fri, May 03, 2013 - Page 4

Lawmakers on the legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday urged the National Communications Commission (NCC) to ask the nation’s telecoms to reduce their international roaming service charges, particularly for calls between Taiwan and China.

The request to reduce charges came following the commission’s decision on Wednesday that telecoms should automatically disconnect a data roaming service if a user has spent NT$5,000 (US$169) on it, adding that carriers are also obligated to send warning messages to customers once 70 percent of the stated amount is spent.

China Telecom, the third-largest telecom in China, announced on Tuesday that it would reduce its roaming service charge in the UK, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Egypt, South Africa and other countries by an average of 50 percent, starting this month. It was the second time this year that it has reduced its roaming service rate, which is now less than 2.99 yuan (US$0.49) per minute.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said people in Taiwan could only look at what China Telecom offers with envy, adding that mobile phone users would feel the difference with such a large service charge cut.

He said that roaming services offered by Taiwanese telecoms range between NT$32 and NT$71 per minute in the US. Those provided by Chinese carriers co

Lee added that Taiwanese carriers charge NT$7 per minute for cross-strait roaming, whereas Chinese carriers only charge NT$4.6 per minute.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Kuo-cheng (林國正) said the nation’s three largest telecoms — Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile and Far EasTone Telecommunications — had a net profit of between NT$10.59 billion and NT$39.9 billion last year, with earnings per share varying from NT$3.55 to NT$5.4 per share. These carriers have enormous scope for lower service charges, he said.

In response, NCC Chairperson Howard Shyr (石世豪) said the roaming service charge is determined through negotiations between domestic telecoms in Taiwan and abroad.

“The bargaining chip is the number of the users of the service,” Shyr said. “Carriers with a larger user base are in a better position to obtain lower rates.”

The NCC promised to talk with telecoms next week and strive to produce concrete solutions within three months.

The nation’s high mobile communications service rates were also the focus at the committee yesterday.

A presentation by Consumers’ Foundation deputy secretary-general Lin Tsung-nan (林宗男) said that on average, Taiwan’s communication charges are 1.4 times higher than in Japan, 2.9 times higher than in Hong Kong, 6.25 times more than in China, 2.1 times more than in Singapore and 2.7 times higher than in South Korea.

DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said the NCC should ask telecoms to provide easier formulas to help customers find suitable service plans, adding that customers could use their bills listing service items and their respective charges to help calculate costs. She added that telecoms should develop rate-calculation applications for their mobile phones that customers can download and use to do the math themselves.

Kuan also said that it is unreasonable that customers must agree to sign a two-year contract and pay the same service rate during the two-year period to enjoy special service rates. Telecoms could require customers to sign contracts, but customers should be allowed to change service rates, she said.