Telecom Authority to check mobile bills for accuracy – The Kathmandu Post

Science & Technology

The Nepal Telecommunications Authority is introducing a monitoring service to verify metered billing and charging accuracy of mobile services as the increasingly complex and fast-changing tariffs for telecommunication and internet services create challenges of consumer dissatisfaction over over-billing and potential penalties by the regulator.

The system would have been introduced earlier as consumers have long been complaining about being charged unnecessarily and unknowingly while utilising telecommunication services.
“The authority would have launched the system earlier, but it is now being introduced as part of its annual programme,” said Surya Prasad Lamichhane, deputy director. “It might take the current fiscal year to complete the project.”
As per a notice published on Tuesday, the government has allocated funds for the procurement of a monitoring service for the verification of metered billing and charging accuracy of mobile services.
According to Clause 17 of the Telecommunication Act 1997, the Nepal Telecommunications Authority is empowered to inspect or investigate the activities carried out or the services provided by the licensee, at any time. Due to the limited resources for billing related complaints, the authority is dependent on the billing systems of telecom operators.
The authority said that it now intends to perform monitoring of some services on a sampling basis independently without the knowledge of the mobile operators to verify whether their metered billing and charging system are reliable or not.
The consultant company will implement a billing audit system without prior knowledge of the telecom service provider and also without integration with the mobile operators system. The consultant will perform tests and conduct measurements of voice, data, SMS and VAS services, simulating real customer behaviour during peak and normal hours, the authority said.
The designed measurements will check the accuracy of bills issued by mobile operators for voice, data, SMS, value added services (VAS) against the Nepal Telecommunications Authority- approved tariff rates and pulse durations for 2G, 3G and 4G services independently without system integration with mobile operators.
The consulting service will be called from international companies, as per the authority. The authority has invited expressions of interest to provide consulting services to design, perform 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 stiff competition in the market to provide service packages of more than 100 Mbps at competitive rates. As per Article 42 of the Telecommunication Act 1997 and the condition of the license, a telecommunication service provider licensed by the authority needs to take approval of service charge or tariff rates for the service provided to customers.
The concerned 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 providing high speed packages at lower prices.
Currently, state-owned telecom giant Nepal Telecom has been charging Rs1.50 per minute on voice call inside its network and Rs2 per minute while making calls to other networks in GSM prepaid tariff. It charges Rs1 on SMS inside the Nepal Telecom network and Rs1.25 while sending messages to other operators. These charges are exclusive of taxes.
Ncell has been charging Rs1.99 while making voice calls within its network and other networks, and Rs1 on SMS within its network and Rs1.27 while sending messages to other telecom networks.
According to the Connectivity in the Least Developed Countries Status Report, 2021 published by the International Telecommunication Union, over 90 percent of households in Nepal have at least one family member with a mobile phone.
Moreover, 96 percent of the households in Nepal have a mobile telephone among whom 97 percent are urban households and 94 percent are rural households.
As of mid-November, there were 41.55 million voice telephone users in the country of which 40.73 million were mobile phone users, the management and information system report of the authority shows.
There are a total 35.34 million broadband users in the country, 7.45 million users of fixed broadband (wired and wireless) and 27.73 million mobile broadband users.
According to the Connectivity in the Least Developed Countries Status Report 2021, a Nepali had to spend 2.6 percent of their gross annual income to buy 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 should not cost more than 2 percent of the gross national income per capita, as per the report. 
Krishana Prasain is a business reporter for The Kathmandu Post covering markets. Before joining The Kathmandu Post in 2018, she spent 3 years in New Business Age magazine covering business.