What is a Mobile Tariff?

Richard Lawson

A mobile tariff refers to the contract that customers sign with a cellular telephone company, including the fees that are charged and the services that are provided, such as monthly allowances of minutes and data. Carriers outside the United States typically mobile tariff schedules rather than calling plans or pricing plans, which are normally used in the U.S. and some other countries. A mobile tariff also includes interconnection rates that cell phone companies are allowed by government regulation to charge each other for connecting calls.

A mobile phone.
A mobile phone.

A tariff is primarily known as a duty paid on imported and exported goods, but with respect to telecommunication, a tariff generally contains the rates, terms and conditions for certain services usually associated with cellular telephone services. A mobile tariff typically includes rules and rates for things such as local calls, long-distance calls and text messages. Other common services addressed in a mobile tariff include ringtones, callback tones and specialized voice mail services. For many users, the mobile tariff also addresses mobile Internet usage, application downloads, application usage, picture or video messaging and other advanced services.

A mobile tariff is the contract signed by a cell phone customer.
A mobile tariff is the contract signed by a cell phone customer.

Like the calling plans used in the U.S. and some other countries, mobile tariffs can be tailored to suit individual customers' needs. For some people, a mobile tariff that has a basic price for a certain number of minutes of use each month and charges extra for any additional minutes is best. Customers who rarely use their cell phone might prefer being charged by the minute, which could be more expensive by the minute but less expensive overall. For those who use their phone frequently, such as teenagers or businesspersons, a mobile tariff that includes unlimited minutes might be the best.

Each company that provides cellular telephone services creates its own mobile tariff schedule to compete. Sometimes the tariff structures that companies create cause a pricing war as one tries to outdo the other. Such a mobile tariff war has happened in India. In 2009, two companies created mobile tariffs that charged by the second rather than by the minute, with one company doing it first and a competitor following suit.

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