26 Sep 2017 09:43

Providers expect changes in traffic transmission, network connection rules with abolition of roaming fees

MOSCOW. Sept 26 (Interfax) - Russia's leading mobile service providers, following a meeting at the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) on Monday, agreed to eliminate national roaming fees starting in 2018, while the regulator pledged to "remove barriers" to the expansion of providers' business.

One of the main demands that mobile providers have within the context of eliminating roaming fees is that conditions be changed for traffic transmission and connections to networks, comments by representatives of providers indicate.

"Participants in the meeting acknowledged the need to liberalize industry legislation in order to reduce telecom operators' costs in construction of communication networks and traffic routing," MegaFon press secretary Yulia Dorokhina told Interfax after the meeting.

Vimpelcom spokesperson Anna Aibasheva said that at the FAS meeting her company mentioned the need to reduce mobile interconnect rates - the cost of terminating calls between the networks of mobile providers.

"In our opinion, this is particularly relevant in conditions where voice services are being supplanted by data services. The previous rate was established back in 2006, when users used more voice. Today, we are seeing dynamic growth of data usage, which forces operators to focus investment in data. And the reduction of mobile interconnect costs will make it possible for end users to get substantially larger, potentially altogether unlimited, packets of voice services for even less money than today, including on trips throughout Russia and in calls to the networks of other operators, since the current mobile interconnect rate promotes concentration of calls within the network of their own telecom operator, and also becomes an economic barrier to reducing the cost of calls to the networks of other operators," Aibasheva said.

Vimpelcom head Kjell Morton Johnsen said earlier that rates for inter-operator connections between mobile providers need to come down by 60%-80%. Russian interconnect rates are 150% to eight times higher than elsewhere in the world, he said. The rates for grounding traffic between mobile providers and between mobile and fixed providers are now 0.95 rubles and 0.80 rubles, respectively.

"Vimpelcom representatives laid out their vision for future actions regarding prices for telecom services on trips throughout Russia at the meeting with the communication minister and head of FAS. The final design of changes will be determined later, due to the technical elaboration of the issue, since potential changes concern several thousand rate plans, and this requires significant changes in operators' technical systems," Aibasheva said on Monday.

Tele2 spokesman Kirill Alyavdin said that his company will present Internet, SMS and voice services to customers within the network "at home rates" until the end of 2017.

"In future, we propose the gradual elimination of roaming charges for voice connections with subscribers of other networks as well within the context of the changes to legislation in the area of network connections and traffic transmission that we talked about today at the meeting with the Communications Ministry and FAS," Alyavdin said.

Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) just said that it is holding a dialog with FAS and the Communications Ministry. "We agreed that operators will present detailed proposals taking into account the interests of subscribers and the industry," MTS press secretary Dmitry Solodovnikov said.

The Communications Ministry, FAS and telecom providers agreed after Monday's meeting on issues concerning roaming to eliminate roaming fees in the first half of 2018. The ministry and FAS pledged to prepare all of the necessary regulatory documents by the end of this year. Users will stop being charged extra fees for telecom services when travelling from one region of Russia to another as of January 2018, and providers will use the rest of the first half of the year to resolve remaining technical issues.

One of the conditions for the elimination of roaming fees is that rates for mobile providers' customers must not increase. As a result, mobile providers will lose a substantial amount of revenue. Telecom Daily CEO Denis Kuskov estimated that national roaming fees generate 3%-4% of providers' revenue in Russia.

FAS head Igor Artemyev said the regulator and the Communications Ministry will make regulatory changes that will expand opportunities for providers to make money and partially offset the lost roaming revenue.

"Our objective is that companies not lose with this, that by expanding their business they go into areas that they cannot enter due to unneeded barriers. This is liberalization, changes to decrees, which [Communications Minister] Nikolai Anatolyevich [Nikiforov] agreed to, and this is, of course, our work," Artemyev said on Monday. One such barrier is the issue of telecom providers' non-discriminatory access to buildings, he said.