back to article Should Europeans pay to receive phone calls?

A new report commissioned by the EU recommends the abolition of termination fees, the proportion of call costs which is paid to the receiving network, on the grounds that the internet survives without them and the internet is going to be everything, anyway. The report (summary: pdf), conducted by the German telecoms research …

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Cold Sales Calls

So, in addition to wasting my time, the people ringing me up to sell me double glazing will also be wasting my money. I can see caller ID becoming more important. And we'll need some type of 'do not call' legislation.

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Anonymous Coward

Termination charge

So someone with a Pay As You Go mobile phone that they mainly use for text messaging could find themselves paying for the privilege of receiving junk calls and wrong numbers?

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Alert

moronic

Why the hell do you want to go down the american route? Out of the 3 main mobile areas, Europe, Asia and the US. The US are dead last with there incompatible carriers and last generation handsets.

The pissant coverage, and lack of standards is a bigger reason for the americans needing to pay to receive, its got naff all to do with encoraging use.

They honestly are proposing that we pay for the spam calls from mobile shops pretending to be your operator, or any other random muppet that accidently calls us?

It also goes against the rest of the policys the EU pushes where all costs should be upfront, clear and obvious.

There is only one case where the receiver should possibly pay, and that if its consumer calling a business...ie call us anywhere anytime its free type of thing.

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make the customer pay for received cold-calls?

This sounds like I'm being asked to pay for all the annoying sales calls, silent calls and "surveys" that any sales organisation wants to burden me with.

Apart from the sheer annoyance of having to take these calls, I'll now have to fork out for the privilege - I don't think so. Where can I hand in my handset?

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Unhappy

Compulsory Caller ID

I agree with Neil, cold callers are a waste of my time at the moment and most of them withold their ID making it impossible to screen them out. I could always say I'll never answer my phone if the ID is witheld but then some of my customers also withold their numbers.

If they go for the model of receiving party pays then they should also introduce compulsory ID.

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Definitely no cold calls

I'm with the majority here - if I have to pay to receive calls then I want mandatory CLI on telesales calls, including those originating overseas so I can choose to ignore them. Also, they must be strictly opt-in up front and every year they should be required to confirm by letter that I am indeed opted in (just in case someone sneaks one past me in the small print) and allow me to easily change that status.

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Bonkers

The reason why Mobiles haven't taken off in the US to the same extent as the rest of the world is because the recieving party has to pay for the incoming call. This is also the reason the americans love their pagers so much.

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MET

Tail wagging the dog

The logic of this report appears to be as follows

1 in the US local calls are free and long distance very expensive

2 in the US mobiles were sold with land line area codes so users expected free local calls

3 someone had to pay so they made it the callee

So this whole problem appears to derive from the US charging model and the bizarre decision to give a geographic area code to a device that is designed to travel.

Given that neither points 1 or 2 are true in the UK (I don't know about the rest of Europe) it would seem odd to imply the same conclusion here.

Better to change US phones to have non geographic area codes than pay to receive calls here.

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@Neil

Cold-calling is already illegal in the UK but like so many things the law is not properly enforced and people do not report the abuse, which is what it is often enough because it is too much hassle. So, no new legislation required but perhaps something to make stamping out the practice easer like being able to call your telephone company to report a nuisance call and require them to provide the technical information.

As for the termination fee itself: interoperability has a cost - does VoIP have the same QoS as POTS? Whether the fee represents the costs incurred is another matter but the ability to charge for incoming calls was an important aspect of the mobile licence auctions which is why mobile termination fees are higher. Binning the termination fee altogether might be counterproductive as it would favour service predators over service providers. So, as Bill notes the report has a touch of blind faith in fashionable technology in it.

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Anonymous Coward

Fixed cost the inevitable endpoint

Called party pays will never fly in Europe, termination fees are a historic reflection of charging mechanisms when everything was metered as much to ration and control usage of a scarse resource as to make money (although it did get very lucrative).

These days (for voice at least) resources are not scarse and the world is rapidly moving to fixed cost, unmetered tarifs. It makes sense for operator peering to go the same way to reflect this. I am not sure whether we can rely on the market to make this happen though: termination fees along with their evil cousin roaming fees are just too much of an easy cash cow. One of the few times I think we will need some regulatory intervention to kick things off.

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Well who's going to pay for LTE upgrades?

"Europe needs no more network infrastructure"

Well who's going to pay for LTE upgrades?????

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Joe

Dear Telco...

...Try this and see how fast I disconnect my telephone, and cancel my voice service. Almost any communication I NEED can be done via my broadband connection.

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Black Helicopters

EU

Seeing as the EU operate without popular mandate, they can do what the hell they like without worrying about what the public think.

This means that they always side with businesses - so it looks like we'll be paying to receive calls within the next couple of years. At which point my land line will be unplugged - it's only there for ADSL anyway...

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Already happens

When you're roaming abroad you pay for incoming calls.

Do folks get a lot of junk calls on their mobiles? I've never had one, I assumed because there's no way for such an operation to be transparently free to the calling party.

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@Compulsory Caller ID

I don't think Compulsory Caller ID would work either. What would be needed with this system would be compulsory death sentence for anyone involved in telemarketting.

If it weren't for all the crap calls I wouldn't have a problem with this, it would probably balance out anyway. The cost of making calls would go down by about the same amount as the cost of recieving them (in an ideal world - pah).

If you use your mobile whilst travelling then you're probably used to this already. Whilst travelling in the US, it's still much cheaper to have a US mobile number and use that to receive calls than to pay roaming charges.

The occasional wrong number would be a pain though, I don't think it would be reasonable to have to execute everyone who makes a mistake.

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Linux

Sweden had the opposite view

One of their operator had a nice idea : you get money on every call you receive ...

Quite simple : they share the termination fee with you. The more phone calls you receive, the more money you get.

Ok it's not a huge sum. But it saved many a teenager monthly bill.

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Check... huh?

It's March the 5th, you guys are way early. Good joke though.

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opposite way round in US

Seem to remember when I was in the US (admittedly almost 10 years ago now) that mobile phone companies were complaining that mobile (sorry cell) phone usage wasn't developing as quickly in the US as in Europe because people had to pay to receive calls and as a result weren't as keen to give out their mobile number as people in Europe were which was reducing the amount of calls made. Seem to think that they thought the solution was to move to a caller pays model!

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Stop

Phil

"when you call someone using Skype you pay for your part of the connection, by eating into the usage cap on your broadband connection; and the person receiving the call does the same. You each pay for your part of the connection."

Sounds more like an opportunity to charge two parties instead of just one for the same phone call to me.

Will the charges to both parties add up to the same as the current single charge to the caller only? Doubtful! Is this not yet another example of creating problems where there are none!

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>ring< >ring< >ring<

"Hi.

This is Fluffykins. I'm not here to take your call at the moment, but if you really want me, please redial on 0906 123 4567

(Calls to this number are £1.50 a minute. Calls last a minimum of 1 minuite and can be as long as you like. The longer the better)"

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Stop

It would be a dark day in hell.

"It is debatable if European users are willing to start paying to receive calls"

No its not. There is no way in hell that this would ever fly in europe. If I'm making a call then the responsibility for the cost is mine, provided nobody plays silly buggers about roaming charges.

You might like to suggest that one flat rate charge for connection to the network is valid, doing away with bandwidth caps and roaming entirely - but there is zero chance that the europeans will fall into the same pit as the US, so stop wasting time thinking about it.

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Unhappy

A few mistakes here...

@Charlie Clark "Cold-calling is already illegal in the UK .."

No, it is not illegal, however BT offers a free service to block it. (Telephone Preference Scheme - TPS - register. see http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/07/12/bt_privacy/ ) If you still get cold calls, the caller is in breach of their contract with BT and can be refused a license to operate, though I doubt it ever happens.

@AC "EU operate without popular mandate" So what are the European elections for? Every voter in every European Union state has the right to vote for their Euro MP. It's called Democracy. The European civil service though is like every other national civil service, so not elected, but is answerable to the elected government.

Local calls in the US are not really "free" - TANSTAAFL - a fixed cost is rolled into the monthly subscription, so if you don't make many local calls, you pay for your neighbo[u]r who does. Similarly BT's "free" weekend and evening calls are not free - they are fixed cost by subscription.

Whatever WIK says, this is only a consultation paper, and in such a competitive market as the European mobile phone market, it will be the consumers who call the shots. Which operator would be the first to "offer" pay on receive - and watch all its customer change to a different supplier?

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Boffin

Air Time Rules!

When I left the US 5 years ago my Sprint PCS mobile account came with 5,000 minutes "air time" included in my monthly fee, meaning I could make *or receive* up to 5,000 minutes of calls before being charged any more. All other call charges were the same as for my land line, i.e. local calls *free* and long distance calls pennies per minute (with all the same long distance carrier deals and packages available to me as on my land line).

Not only were calls I made to my local area code *free*, but more importantly calls *from* people in my local are to my mobile number were *free* to them. This worked land-line to mobile, mobile to land-line, and MOBILE TO MOBILE, even CROSS-NETWORK! In addition, minutes that I didn't use each month would roll over to the following month for up to 3 months. I think when I closed my Sprint PCS account I had something over 8,000 minutes of air time left on it.

Here in the EU, 5 years later, I still have to pay ludicrous per-minute fees to mobile companies to call another mobile (after eating through my minuscule monthly allowance), especially if it's on a different network than mine.

The US model results in people being able to use *only* a mobile phone (especially when combined with wires-only DSL which allows them to have Internet access without the overhead of paying for a phone line), and use it *much* more than their EU counterparts, for *much* less per-month cost.

Also, business people who are very mobile, such as salespeople or real estate agents, etc., can publish a local area phone number for customers to contact them on, and customers can call them without having to pay exorbitant land-line to mobile call charges as in the EU, making them a lot easier to reach and therefore improving their business opportunities.

Having lived in both US and EU, I can say from personal experience that I *much* prefer the local-area-number-and-air-time model used in the US.

I'm told US mobile charges have gone up somewhat over the last 5 years since I was there - can any US readers chime in with today's average monthly fees & air-time allowances?

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DR
Paris Hilton

did anyone actually read the article properly?

by the comments I think not....

what they are saying is that the recieving party is already paying to recieve the calls. the report recommends scrapping the termination fee...

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Stop

not a good idea

Free local calls on land lines sounds very nice, until you give out your number to the wrong people. My parents in CA let the answering machine take every call because about 75% of the calls they receive are not wanted. They get calls from charities, businesses, magazines, cold sales calls, financial services, and so on. Part of the problem is that they gave out their number too readily or were too polite to hang up, but it is a big problem for them. The cost of paying someone minimum wage plus commissions to cold call (or having a computer dial a list of numbers) with free calls is very low. Add small cost per connection / minute and it becomes less cost effective.

And David Shepherd (above) is right - Americans don't want to pay for it when someone else wants to call them, so they didn't (and still don't) give out their phone numbers to all and sundry. Emulating the US system is a big step in the wrong direction...

The postal system (a long time ago) also figured out that getting the recipient to pay for the mail didn't work very well (for one thing, the cost of delivery was incurred even it the mail was refused on arrival).

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@grahamt

"The European civil service though is like every other national civil service, so not elected, but is answerable to the elected government."

Bollocks. The euro elections are meaningless and the parliament, by its own admission, is merely an oversight body - and in reality it can't even perform that function as it has no means to prevent legislation, merely "amend" it. It can't create legislation either. It has no executive powers. It's a useless talking shop, little more. It can be ignored by the commission and indeed has been many, many times. The real power lies in the hands of the European Councils, made up of appointed representatives of the various ministries of the member states, and the commission, which is also unelected. These councils tend to operate in secret and rarely produce minutes. They create drafts for the commission to turn into directives, which are then handed out to the member states to implement into their own legislation, often with less than a day's oversight by the national parliaments. In the case of technical and regulatory directives the national legislatures are bypassed completely.

The crazy thing is, these councils are, most of the time, simply re-drafting the output of various United Nations councils and technical committees which, under our UN treaty obligations, we would examine and implement into our own law anyway. Most of the legislation emanating from the EU consists of redrafted UN recommendations. Were the EU not there we would have the option of implementing these recommendations at our own pace, without the drag of the EU taking years to redraft them and without the compulsory element. We would be able to amend them as we saw fit, or even ignore them entirely if we felt they were not in our best interests. Two examples that spring to mind are running lights on cars and high-visibility reflectors on trucks. In the former case, we don't need them - we are not a country with long, dark winter days - and in the latter case we had two government committees recommend the use of high-vis reflectors on trucks a full year before the EU even considered it but we were unable to create legislation to that effect because road safety is an EU competence, meaning that the national legislature cannot act unless the EU provides it with something to act with.

And, again, the parliamentary committee recommendations were based on technical documents provided by a United Nations committee. So what use is the EU? It slows things down, it prevents us acting in our own best interests and - crucially - is not elected at any meaningful level.

So yes, the EU operates without a popular mandate. The only tangible benefit we actually have from it is being in a free trade zone, but we could do that without the ruddy toy parliament and the bureaucracy associated with the EU as a whole, implementing the various bits of ideas that come from the UN or from standards bodies and merrily subsidising our own farmers, schools and hospitals with our own money rather than giving it to the EU so we can have some fraction of it back to be mis-spent on stupid "culture" projects and bits of paper telling us why the EU is so bloody brilliant. We simply don't need it. Why not simply be in the EFTA, like Switzerland or Norway? They get all the benefits of free trade and open borders without any of the stupidities and economic drags.

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re: did anyone actually read the article properly?

Seems not. My understanding is that they are referring to the termination fees on local calls, not on all calls. And if you bundle the receive fees into the monthly allowance I guess no one will know anyway. And as Chris Miller stated it already happens when you're abroad.

To those on contracts I doubt it would make much difference as you get so many free minutes anyway nowadays. Pay-as-you-go could be screwed though.

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Pay-as-you-go is critical

Europe’s high mobile phone penetration is built upon a very simple model. Caller-pay-as-you go. Apart from the up front handset cost (which is cheap for basic models), you don’t HAVE to pay anything to own a mobile. No subscription. No incoming call charges. That is the primary reason everyone owns one. And universal ownership is the foundation upon which everything else is built. Once everyone has a mobile you can start selling added-value services, like SMS, MMS, ringtones, data, etc.

Reachability – the ability of other people to contact you when they don’t know where you are is essentially free in Europe. Mobile phone networks don’t expect to make (much) money from it – it’s simply trojan for getting phones into people's hands, thus providing a platform for selling everything else. And that is the reason mobile phones are so ubiquitous.

The subscription model, while a lot more common than it used to be, is not so common that call receipt charges will be accepted without a fight. There will be a fair number of people who will not choose to own a mobile if reachability actually costs them money – and that is definitely a step backwards.

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Its about time - think about it...

Calling party pays is the reason calls to mobiles cost so much in the UK.

The operators have no reason to reduce termination charges - its not their customers who have to pay them! (but you do - if you ever call another operators' mobile).

Looking at the comments, it seems that many think it is a really bad idea. Do you not wonder why it costs 50p a minute to call a mobile from a fixed line yet only 5p from the same mobbile network?

If the customers of the operator are the ones paying the outrageous termination charges then it would introduce proper serious price competition - not this cheap calls on same Orange/O2/Voda etc. netwrok nonsense.

In fact the call charge arbitrage opportunities spawned a whole industry of inserting traffic into mobile operators networks with banks of 'fixed mobiles' to bypass the termination charge. If there is that much money in it - it's too high.

In Hong Kong I pay about £10 a month for 1800 or 2500 minutes (I forget exactly) of calls (incoming and outgoing). That is for all calls to any other mobile or fixed network and there are no other call charges.

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Unhappy

Termination charges are a cash cow and should be scrapped

They bear no relation to the actual costs of inter-connection but allow operators to fleece each others customers or encourage people to switch on the basis that "All my family/friends are on Network X so it's cheaper for me to be too, even of they are less competitive."

And when you're in a queue after phoning some 0870 number, more often than not, the company you're calling is actually making money off you the longer you're on hold.

Instead of daft ideas like splitting the cost, perhaps the charges themselves should be investigated and capped?

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Unhappy

Am I missing the point here?

A service user is charged (or at least, should be) for using a service. In this case a telephone to make a call and a call when made. I choose to make the call. If the recipient knew it was me they could decide if they wanted to take the call - or not.

If we must go down the route of accepting charges for any received calls, and I don't believe we should as there is nothing wrong with the system at the moment, then certain pre-conditions much be achieved.

Were the caller cannot know who the caller is - the call is from for example a "withheld" or non-UK number - then it is unreasonable to burden them with the charge. So all phones - mobile, internet and landline should be equipped with, as standard, caller ID display as part of the Service contract. The device should allow the user to record the number in a file so that future calls are barred. Also, if a caller choses to use a process that does not display the number from which they are calling they should be charged for all the call. The recipient would then be able to decide if they wanted to take a call. I'm sure there are difficulties even with this approach but I'd get very rude if I had to pay for any part of a double glazing cold call.

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Coat

Should Europeans pay to receive phone calls?

No.

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Anonymous Coward

receiving party pays

Its swings & roundabouts as to whether any operator actually makes money on termination charges; there has in the past been a genuine transfer of cash from fixed to mobile on account of high mobile termination charges, but this has been eroded by 1) regulation of mobile termination charges and 2) a much greater proportion of voice calls originating on mobile.

Mobile operators move money back and forth inter alia; an operator like 3 in the UK is a net outpayer, T-Mobile possibly net receiver on account of the customer mix and interconnect charge profile.

Do customers pay more as a consequence? The costs of the telecoms industry would not change if the charges were removed, they would be reallocated; in the UK you would probably see much less subsidy of handsets (currently in the order of £200-£400 per device) if mobile termination charges were reduced / abolished. Contract customers already receive large bundles of cross-net call minutes, so don't experience a marginal call charge on plain voice calls.

0870, referred to by an earlier commentator, bit of a different matter; the termination charge for that is not set in relation to costs but according to a notional cost for a national call from a BT line. The actual retail price charged to the consumer is the responsibility of the company selling you your phone service of course; because these calls don't feature highly in the call mix, they don't tend to benefit from competitive pressure to any great degree. Probably best not to confuse the cost of calling 0870 with the general calling party pays / receiving party pays regime.

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Mobiles, Cold Calls, and you

Here is the US, mobile phone numbers are not considered public information like land lines are. They are not published anywhere, and are illegal to obtain in the same way. Cold calls are, in fact, a rarity for US mobile users, unless you give your phone number out to everyone you see, and plug it into various dodgy websites and supply it in those stupid "Enter now to win a free punch to the kidneys!" drawings at fairs and such. Additionally, our do not call lists actually work very well, stipulating that only companies who are charities, political organizations, and those who have a preexisting relationship with you, due to past business and the like, can call you. Anyone else will get fined rather heavily.

So, the complaint about cold calling can be resolved. There are always the bad apples out there, but you can usually take care of that by calling your provider. They will block those calls, trace them, etc.

Personally, I never understood how the pricing structure worked in Europe, and it's hard for me the understand why local calls were chargeable, and not all you can talk. I imagine the life of a teenager before mobiles was a tough one indeed, not being able to talk all evening long to their friends.

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Re: Sweden

"Quite simple : they share the termination fee with you. The more phone calls you receive, the more money you get."

So they're making enough profit off their termination fee that they can afford to give you some of it?

So the fee isn't just the actual cost incurred by the network in receiving a call (which realistically is going to be close enough to nothing as makes no odds anyway), but it's hiked up for profit?

Greedy bastards.

The minute someone expects me to pay to answer a phone is the minute I unplug my home phone and start using my mobile contract for data only.

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@Graham Dawson

"Two examples that spring to mind are running lights on cars and high-visibility reflectors on trucks. In the former case, we don't need them - we are not a country with long, dark winter days -"

No idea what country you live in, I would imagine N. Europe, perhaps UK, in which case you have just lost all credibility unless it has moved rather far South since I lived there. I seem to recall December, January being rather dark even in the South, i.e. dark from 15.30-ish to all intents and purposes (especially on dank, overcast days) till 08.30-ish. Bad weather made much of the "daylight" questionable. I assure you, day-running lights are valuable and even in the USA you will see many people using them voluntarily.

I do not know where you think each country's ministers come from: perhaps you have never voted for an MP, written to one or wondered where your own ministers come from. I suggest you learn how to use the voting system.

As for mobile costs: it is nonsensical that one should pay to receive unsolicited calls, whether commercial or from friends, wrong numbers or whoever. It is the case that mobile charges seem to be a licence to make money, especially roaming charges. The EU system is tackling the latter (our responsive, national governments seem not to care). However, common sense suggests that "abolishing termination charges" means no charges to pay by the recipient.

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US model works much better, generates higher usage

I'm rather amazed by the comments here. You Europeans seem to think that we Americans ride horses to work or something.

The American mobile system works much better than the European one. Prices have fallen, penetration has risen, and average usage has skyrocketed. Almost everybody in the US who wants a mobile has one, from at least middle-school age. (A few really remote areas have little or no coverage, but that's a function of terrain and population density.)

Average usage per mobile phone in the US is approaching 1000 minutes/month. I don't have the exact number (Scott Marcus of WIK, who co-wrote that report, probably does -- we are old friends) but it has been rising. We do not see it as paying for incoming calls, either, because we pay so little for mobile usage. Everybody signs up for a bucket-of-minutes rate, except for the prepaid phones (which are also available). So we pay maybe $40/month for 500 minutes, or $65 for 1000 minutes; fully unmetered plans (about $90) have also just arrived. Overtime is expensive, so users make sure their bucket is big enough.

In some major cities, calling volume to and from mobiles exceeds wireline levels. So there's a lot of wireline substitution going on. Mobile phones have regular-looking numbers so you can just give that number out. Numbers are portable, both among wireless carriers and between wireline and wireless. So you can drop your wireline service and keep the number on your mobile.

Telemarketing calls to cell phones are illegal, subject to heavy fines if they're caught. It's up to the telemarketer to figure out if a line is mobile. It still happens, but it's rare, and nobody worries about the minutes, since they're bucketed.

Somebody said that Americans still use pagers because of our mobile rates. That may have been true in, say, 1994, but the pager business has shriveled to vestigial levels. There's no big cost advantage to them. But some locations, like hospitals, don't like cell phones to be turned on (the transmitter might interfere with something), hence pagers.

Many Americans no longer pay domestic long distance charges either. Mobile plans almost never charge for such calls; wireline plans are common too. So it's common for college kids to have home-area cell phones and call each other on them, around the campus, even if the call hairpins through the called party's home area 3000 miles away. It's all included in the plan.

For all of this, the wireless companies are profitable; Verizon and ATT are shriveling on the wireline side but making up for it with wireless profits. Talk about moving to a CPP plan, like Europe has, are about as popular as talk about moving to a Soviet-style planned economy. Our mobile system works. Our wireline system is a regulatory mess, to be sure, and let's not talk about Internet or broadband. Wireless works, it seems, because the current FCC (Cheney-Rove regime) hasn't touched the system that was put in place before them.

Texting is expensive if you don't have a bucket-of-messages plan. Unlike Europe, talk is usually cheaper. But 500-message and even unlimited texting plans are now available; they're popular among young users.

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Linux

One missing point

One thing everyone seems to miss it that this model of charging for incoming calls will mean that the companies can double bill for thier service. The person making the call is charged and then person receiving the call is charged. Use to be that way in Canada until the companies were taken to court and lost.

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Jobs Horns

This is also the reason the americans love their pagers so much

Thanks ..

I always wondered why Amercans use crappy pages

I always though it was to stop losing an eye on those huge wippy aerils

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IT Angle

EVOLUTION, Bloody quickly

Hmmm.

Caller ID. Compulsary ID registration for homes and businesses on the network.

Caller log and interactive abuse reporting via your handset (at no extra charge).

Call filters (Nothing from telesales centres for example) or even better, only allow calls from the following numbers.

IP banning at your fingertips.

Public phone user? Sucks to be them then.

Recieve and send text messages via your home phone (Ok, yes i know some systems let you do this, like messenger systems and so forth).

Howver, no video phones though. Virgin Media screw me out of enough bandwidth when I need it, as it is (Screwed by a virgin, yet not feeling warm and fuzzy.... nominated for Irony).

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@Fred Goldstein

FYI: In Austria for pay as you go the rate per call to all networks is €0.069 per minute. Flatrate (no limit) is €19 to all networks. Germany is slightly more expensive: Pay as you go is usually about €0.04 per minute in the same network and fixed lines and €0.09 to other mobile networks. Flatrates are €22.50, meaning totally unlimited calls inside the same network and to fixed lines and 60 free minutes to other mobile networks. 3G data flatrates are about €25. As an incentive with monthly plans we get a free new mobile phone every 18 months.

The $ will have to sink a lot lower than it already has before I start drooling over the prices you quoted.

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Bad Information

This article doesn't really represent the American phone industry very well.

In terms of landlines, in many - but not all - locations, your monthly bill includes free local calls. Some phone companies still have a per minute charge for local calls unless you buy an additional bundle. Receiving calls on a landline is free unless you accept a collect call.

Mobile phones are a different story. The government would not allow area codes specific to mobile phones, which prevented companies from being able to charge extra for calls from landlines to mobiles (callers wouldn't necessarily know they were calling a mobile, after all). Back in 2006, I paid around $60/month for my mobile, which included 600 minutes per month, plus unlimited nights and weekends (nights started at 9pm and ended at 6am). The big companies have just started offering unlimited calls for around $100 (about £50).

Pagers, while not dead, are definitely a dying breed. Doctors are probably the biggest group that still carries them, since mobiles often aren't allowed in hospitals.

Texting can be expensive in the States, but you can buy plans that make it affordable, and, of course, you can find data plans that are generally as good or better than the ones here.

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Coat

Red pill?

Shurely you mean the blue pill? The red pill brought Neo into the 'real world' while the blue pill would have left him blissfully unaware of his Energizer Bunny overlords.

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Pirate

"rapidly moving to fixed cost, unmetered tarifs"

Sounds like you haven't seen BT's latest tariff "improvement".

Today, evening and weekend calls to landlines, duration up to an hour, are charged a fixed cost, a maximum of (around) 5p (I'm doing this from memory).

Under the "improved" scheme, weekend landline calls (costing no more than 5p, remember?) become free. Wow, I save 5p a call, the drinks are on me. And in the small print, evening landline calls incur a ~5p setup fee plus a metered part of more than a penny a minute, say a round pound for around an hour. Oops. Not so fixed cost unmetered there then, but lots of drinks all round in BT HQ Marketing for fleecing a few million unsuspecting punters for quite a few million pounds a week.

Thank you Mr Ofcom, we love you too, and the dreamworld in which you think BT no longer have "significant market power". Btw Mr Ofcom, has anyone mentioned BT and Phorm to you?

Pirates, because they were thieves and robbers, and so are BT Retail.

ps

on the subject of BT and cold calls: "BT offers a free service to block it." Surely some mistake? The Telephone Preference Service www.tpsonline.org.uk is not a *BT* service, and nor is it a "blocking" service as such; it's just a centralised "do not call" list with legally-enforceable rules which should be followed by legitimate UK telemarketing outfits (sadly, overseas outfits, and UK outfits who don't care about rules, aren't included). BT themselves see "anonymous caller rejection" (ACR) as an incremental revenue opportunity, even though the incremental costs to BT of providing the ACR service are ZERO. Shame this mistake occured in a comment titled "A few mistakes here" :)

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Right...

"dark from 15.30-ish to all intents and purposes (especially on dank, overcast days) till 08.30-ish. Bad weather made much of the "daylight" questionable."

SO, by assuming that people tend to turn their lights on by themselves when it gets dark and by assuming that most people would not be so bloody stupid as to completely fail to see a hulking great chelsea tractor cruising along a well-lit or broad-daylight street somewhere in manchester, I'm the one that loses credibility?

By assuming that most people are smart enough to know when to turn their lights on, I lose credibility? (all right, I know that one's pushing it but be serious for a moment...)

Frankly mate, you don't seem to have read what I was writing anyway. I know exactly where my MP comes from. Who gives a damn? We aren't talking about my MP. My MP cannot change these policies; his party cannot change these policies; the executive in this country CANNOT change these policies. The point I was making was that the EU does not have a democratic mandate by any measure of the meaning of "democracy". That is it. The fact that I vote for my MP makes bugger all difference to that because the national legislature no longer legislates in the majority of cases; the legislation they pretend to pass is generated by the European Council(s), by the Commission, neither of which is elected, neither of which operate under a democratic mandate. Much of that legislation is never even seen by our national legislature.

THAT is the point I was making, but you'd rather try and prove that I lack credibility with an example that is very, very stupid. Why do we need DAYLIGHT running lights? The assumption that people are too ruddy stupid to turn on their headlights when it gets dark is not enough reason to mandate DAYLIGHT running lights. Nevertheless, because we have no recourse to a democratic institution to prevent it, we have had these things mandated and they WILL kill people.

In a sense you've made part of my point for me anyway. Southern Europe doesn't need running lights at all, but they'll be forced to have them because the EU says it must be so. Why? Because! Who cares whether it's actually a sensible idea, they will have them because the EU demands they have them, and tough titties if you complain.

The possibility of the EU imposing these charges on mobile phone calls wouldn't necessarily cause any deaths (with a few exceptions for Ms Campbell's staff perhaps) but it's potentially another example of the same thing. In any case, if the EU decide against the wish of the majority, well, the majority can screw themselves as far as the EU is concerned. That's what I mean by "no democratic mandate".

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Boffin

TPS and no mistake

When I signed up for it two years ago it was a definitely a BT service, and is still advertised in the current phone book under "Receiving un-wanted calls? BT can help" I hadn't realised it had been rebranded, but it still appears to be a free *BT* service.

It works well for me with almost immediate effect from signing up. The few cold calls I do receive now, I tell them I have signed up for BT's TPS and they immediately apologise and hang up. OK, block was the wrong word, I should have said "stop" but the effect is the same; from 1 - 2 cold calls a day to 4 - 5 a year.

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yay super effing cheap Sprint plan

Albeit like Verizon which chose CDMA over GSM. Hence my phone won't work anywhere else but here. All that aside for $50 i've got a bunch of minutes, unlimited texting and no long distance or roaming charges as well as free mobile to mobile.

I think the most airtime I have used is about 40 or 50 minutes calling my bank. And I have cable so no landline for me

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Boffin

VoIP and Asterisk to the rescue!

Sooner or later I'll be dumping my phone line anyway. The solution I've adopted of late is to use a VoIP account feeding into a machine running Asterisk (http://www.asterisk.org), connected to which I have a pair of SIP phones. That way I have complete control over what calls get through to me.

Yes, it runs over the Internet so it's only as reliable as my Internet connection (cable), but at least I don't pay a penny to receive calls - nothing above the Internet subscription, but we're paying that anyway.

I now have complete control over what calls get through and what calls don't. Anything with no caller ID or that's on a local blacklist gets shunted straight to a recorded message saying that the call wasn't accepted. I'm not disturbed and the caller is paying for the call regardless :)

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@playjam

Playjam, what you describe is no bargain. Austrian PAYG phones still have high incoming charges. So the carrier is making their money from incoming termination charges. That's the trick -- the carrier advertises low rates to ITS subscribers while sticking the cost onto other users' carriers. That's why it's called CPNP, not CPP, inthe WIK report: calling party NETWORK pays.

Also, in the US, calls within a mobile network are usually not billed at all (towards one's plan) and there are often "friends and family" type plans too, which give unmetered usage to a few numbers. But PAYG here is not subsidized by incoming calls, so its minutes are all counted. That makes it somewhat less popular; it's mainly aimed at credit-challenged people who can't get postpay plans, as well as at low users. This is still economically correct.

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Boffin

Still nobody read the article properly

The termination charges are fees that the receiving network bills to the originating network. It doesn't mean that the end-user answering the phone pays anything.

In New Zealand, the incumbent monopoly Telecom was embarrassed a few year ago to find that its excessively high termination charges were working against it.

Instead of reaping huge fees from fledgling competing networks who had to pay Telecom every time one of the new network customers phoned a Telecom landline (which initially was 100% of the country), Telecom found themselves forking out large amounts to a small network that had cleverly hooked up with an ISP, so lots of Telecom landline customers were having lengthy dialup sessions into the ISP running on a non-Telecom network.

The termination fees were enough for at least one of these ISPs to be able to offer FREE dialup internet access (from any Telecom landline).

Of course Telecom managed to change the rules, and the free dialup internet service disappeared. But for a while it was nice to see them being hoisted by their own greed.

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