Charges for mobile phone transmission in government tunnels have been cut, prompting private tunnel operators to say they may be forced to follow suit. The administration revealed yesterday that the fee for each new network had been cut to $10,400 per month from October 1. Old networks cost $8,450 for renewal. Operators had been paying $22,500 to $98,000 per month. The Government said the new charges, the minimum needed to cover the cost of processing applications, were essential to broaden mobile phone coverage. Private tunnel operators and mobile phone companies have been arguing over the fees. Gary Luk Kam-hon, general manager of the Route 3 Tunnel, said the cost recovery approach was unsuitable for tunnels running on commercial principles. 'The Government certainly has absolute power to change its charges. But it shouldn't impose its own model on us,' Mr Luk said. He said his tunnel had been charging $1.3 million for nine networks each month, ranging from $100,000 to $200,000 each. 'The level is not particularly high,' he said. Companies running the four franchised tunnels have written to Tung Chee-hwa and other top officials lobbying for exemption from a bill which they fear would take away their autonomy in imposing fees on phone operators. They have yet to receive a reply. In a paper to lawmakers, the bureau said the government tunnels were different from private ones.