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Campaign urges cheaper calls to mobiles

A petition with over 114,000 signatures will be submitted to Ofcom calling for a reduction in the amount operators charge for connecting calls
Written by Carly Newman, Contributor

Terminate the Rate, a campaign to lower mobile termination rates, is to hand a petition containing over 114,000 signatures to Ofcom on Wednesday, calling on the industry regulator to make mobile operators charge less for connecting calls.

Mobile termination rates (MTRs) are the fees a mobile operator charges other operators to connect calls to mobile phones on its network. These charges apply to every call made to a mobile, and are passed on to the user at a cost of around 5p per minute — the campaign is calling for the rates to be slashed to a penny or less per minute.

The campaign was launched by BT and 3 UK in May this year, and is now supported by more than 60 organisations including the Post Office, The National Union of Students and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Sophie Kummer, a spokesperson for the FSB, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that a reduction in MTRs would help businesses, many of which are struggling in the current economic climate.

"A reduction in MTRs would be very beneficial for businesses, which obviously have to make a lot of calls, usually to mobiles from a landline," Kummer said. "The termination rates are just extra overheads that businesses don't need, especially at this time."

John Petter, BT Retail's consumer chief, said in a statement on Wednesday that the reduction was necessary to give consumers a fair deal.

"Any reduction less than this will mean continued unfairness and high prices for UK consumers and businesses," said Petter. "This petition is only the first stage in an ongoing campaign to show how MTRs stifle competition and increase the cost of calling mobiles — our goal remains for them to be set according to what they actually cost."

Since the campaign launched, 114,259 people have signed the online petition in an attempt to influence Ofcom's upcoming review of mobile termination rates.

In addition, 258 MPs have signed an early day motion (EDM) asking for MTRs to be reduced, making it one of the most widely supported EDMs on the parliamentary books, according to Terminate the Rate.

An Ofcom spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that the regulator is considering the campaign's proposals. "We've taken all the stakeholders into account and are considering them as part of the consultation process," the spokesperson said. Ofcom is due to reach a final decision by the end of March next year, according to the spokesperson.

In January of this year, the European Commission said UK MTRs would have to be cut to 4p per minute, rather than Ofcom's proposed 5.1p per minute.

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