Telco pricing? Stop, my brain hurts!

Business telco Colt is still refusing to publish its tariffs, leaving telecoms users none the wiser.

Business telco Colt is still refusing to publish its tariffs, leaving telecoms users none the wiser.

Anyone who's spent any time managing a business' telecoms will know how hard it is to work out how to shave significant amounts off the corporate bill. International calls, daytime and evening rates, mobile phones, specialist discounts for bulk use... the range of things to consider is bewildering. It's like trying to compare different consumer mobile phone packages, but about 100 times more complex. And so users are demanding more transparency. But the telcos are refusing to play ball. Now the argument as to why and whether telcos should reveal these prices is not in any way clear - however much both sides of the debate would make you believe otherwise. Operators such as Colt say there's no reason why they should make their tariffs public, because there are enough competitors around to ensure there's no chance anyone's getting ripped off. In addition they say that businesses may end up more confused if all the telcos published their tarrifs. There would still be confusing issues, and the tariffs alone don't tell the whole story. What about special discounts and service levels? In other words you should leave all of that to your friendly telco - who of course is working with only your interests at heart. The other side of the argument is that this complexity allows telcos to keep customers from comparing like with like. With all the telcos operating in the same way, there are still no guarantees you are receiving value for money. Companies like Ocean Solutions say they can step in and help. They will do the analysis so you don't have to rely on the telcos' information. However, they need the raw data from people like Colt or their business can't exist. They want Oftel to intervene and force this information into the public domain. Oftel at present is keeping quiet as to its plans. Now while silicon.com believes in a light regulatory touch, the telecoms market is still a special case. Big businesses can pay telecoms managers to get the best deal, but SMEs don't have the time, and will continue to be ripped off until they can turn to third parties to find the best deal for them. Telcos like Colt would do well to remember that while they have built very large businesses on the back of Oftel's intervention in the telecoms market, it was not done for their benefit. Deregulation is for the end user, not for the new telcos, and they need to see prices continue to fall.