Consumer: Calling cards will start to be available soon

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, calling cards are like the recharge cards for pre-paid phone connections, except that you use them to make local and international calls. How do they work ? You pay money, buy a card for a certain value, say Rs. 500; next you get a toll-free number. Call the toll free number, use the pin number mentioned on the card and then you are all set to dial the actual number that you need. Why is this not available till now ? Using such a system allows a user to dial STD / ISD using other providers other than his regular phone company, and no phone company wants to have such a system in place. Such a system however would allow a consumer to use the most cost-effective such service available, and the consumer in fact is not tied to their regular phone company. It has taken long enough for the Department of Telecom to allow such a service to be available, and from the note, it would seem that the department is still not ready to let customers use the most cost-effective service, namely that of Internet telephony:

The Department of Telecom is believed to have allowed sale of ‘calling cards’ for making domestic and international calls from any phone – a move that could bring tariffs down. Calling card allows users to select an operator for making STD and ISD calls as recommended by telecom regulator Trai in August last year. The Telecom Commission, the policy wing of DoT, is understood to have referred back another proposal for unrestricted Internet Telephony back to the regulator for more clarifications.

Trai had earlier said introduction of calling-cards for making STD and ISD calls is the best alternative to the carrier selection code as this would save cost, which can be spent on upgrading the networks of existing operators. Using calling-cards will increase competition in the long-distance segment and, in turn, will benefit over 370 million subscribers, telecom analysts said.

Open competition spurs more cost-effective solutions, letting customers have the best possible value for their money, and the Department of Telecom should take decisions that are in the best interests of customers.

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