Bulgaria’s Communications Regulation Commission (CRC) has received European Commission approval to further cut the ceiling on mobile termination rates, the fees that carriers charge each other for calls between networks, from 0.13 leva to 0.055 leva (about 2.8 eurocents) starting July 1, the regulator’s chairperson Vesselin Bozhkov told Bulgarian National Television on June 1.
For end-users that would translate into a decrease of between 25 per cent and 40 per cent on retail prices, Bozhkov said. Starting January 1 2013, the fees would be cut further, ranging from 0.039 leva to 0.046 leva, which would finally put mobile termination rates in the country below the European Union average, he said.
Mobile termination rates in Bulgaria, EU’s poorest country in terms of purchasing power, have long been the highest in the bloc, but started coming down – not least in response to prodding from the European Commission – in 2009. In 2007, when Bulgaria joined the EU, termination rates were 0.38 leva.
The regulator has kept to its schedule for progressive reductions in mobile termination rates, but the figures approved last week are even lower than the amounts that CRC initially envisioned in September 2011.
Bozhkov said that he expected the country’s three mobile operators – Telekom Austria-owned Mobiltel, Cosmote’s Globul and Vivacom – to appeal the decision in court, but that would not impact implementation, as carriers are required to follow the new rules even as they appeal them. So far, courts have sided with the regulator on each previous decision to cut mobile termination rates.
Despite the regulator’s efforts to lower prices, the number of complaints it received from telecom customers was on the rise, Bozhkov said. After receiving 5000 complaints in 2011, the regulator was already past 2000 complaints in the first four months of 2012.
The most frequent complaints involved carriers’ reluctance to ensure number portability and failure to send billing information. CRC also received complaints about attempts to overcharge consumers, but these were outside its regulatory area, Bozhkov said.