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No termination charge on SMS sent during disaster situations: Trai

NEW DELHI : Telcos cannot levy termination charges on SMS sent during disaster situations, but they will be able to charge termination of 2 paise per SMS during disaster or non-disaster situations without any direction under the Disaster Management Act, as per a latest Trai directive.

The regulator said in an amendment to the telecom tariff order on Tuesday that SMSes sent through the common alert protocol at the time of a disaster will not attract the termination charge of 2 paise under the Disaster Management Act. 

However, SMS sent during disaster and non-disaster situations but without any direction under the Disaster Management Act, however, through the common alert protocol (CAP) will be charged 2 paise termination charge by the telecom operators on whose network it is sent.

However, there will be no termination on sending messages through the cell broadcast system (CBS) which can send out messages to all devices connected to the selected mobile tower.

“Considering the significance of alerts or messages sent as per direction issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 …the Authority has decided that no charges shall be levied for such SMS/Cell Broadcast Alerts or messages sent either during a disaster or prior to notification of disaster or after the expiry of disaster,” Trai said.

The decision will partially benefit telcos that have been seeking that the government compensates them for sending out millions of text messages to subscribers each month for public alerts, disaster and non-disaster related emergencies among others, which were using up considerable resources.  

Presently, do not charge for text messages or SMSs under the common alerting protocol (CAP) where the government requires them to disseminate to consumers to spread information or awareness, for instance messages of Covid prevention, vaccination and safety precautions, et al.  

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea (Vi) and Reliance Jio together send out more than 450 million such messages on a monthly basis, data from the Cellular Operators Association of India revealed. Carriers have sought for tariffs to be fixed for such messages, for both disaster as well as non-disaster categories. Telcos had sought charges as high as 10 paise per message for sending the CAP based alerts in non-disaster scenarios. 

The market rate of bulk-SMS is anywhere between 13 paise to 18 paise per SMS, which includes the SMS termination charge at 2 paise per SMS and promotional SMS termination at 5 paise per SMS.


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