The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dial cellular and pay fixed line charges

New Delhi, Oct. 18: Forget the frumpy old phone that doesn’t move with the mover. Cellphone rates are dropping to levels you pay for fixed lines.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) will set the nerves of all telephone service providers — fixed line and cellular — jangling tomorrow with the nationwide launch of its CellOne cellular service with eye-popping tariffs.

CellOne will be offering a rental of Rs 250 per month (equivalent to the fixed line rental in urban areas) and the lowest-ever airtime charge of Rs 1.25 per 3-minute outgoing call; incoming calls will be free for the first three minutes and will be charged at 75 paise for every minute thereafter.

For a fixed line, the cost is Rs 1.20 per three minutes. Private cellular operators charge for every 30 seconds.

CellOne uses the technology Global System for Mobile Communications — the same as that used by private operators.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) cleared BSNL’s tariff plan this evening. Under clause 7 of the Telecom Tariff Order 1999, the service provider has to inform the regulator of its proposed rates and “unless the authority intervenes within the mandatory notice period of five working days, the service provider may implement the proposed tariff”.

While the government-owned company’s brass was silent on the tariff scheme, sources in the communications ministry said: “There will be two plans in addition to the general plan stipulated by Trai. In plan ‘A’ we have proposed to offer a low rental with no free incoming calls.”

They added that “plan ‘B’ permits free incoming calls but with a slightly higher rental”.

CellOne’s prepaid customers also stand to get a huge benefit: airtime worth Rs 300 on a card priced at Rs 315. Private cellular operators offer an airtime of around Rs 190 on a similarly-priced card.

“We will later revise the tariff based on the feedback,” said sources in the communications ministry. BSNL is also in talks with sister outfit Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd, which operates in Mumbai and Delhi, so that it can offer an all-India roaming facility to all its CellOne customers.

“It is good for customers and will not impact the cellular industry. The market is big and the existing operators have already firmed up their subscriber base that will not be disturbed. The new targets will be the low-end and medium-level subscribers,” said an industry observer of BSNL’s tariff structure.

BSNL’s cellular service will be launched tomorrow in Lucknow by the Prime Minister.

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