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Cell operators line up rate cut

New Delhi, Jan. 1: Cellular operators are ready to hit back with a joint announcement of a rate cut to match Reliance IndiaMobile’s “cheaper-than-a-postcard” tariff structure for its limited mobility service.

Cellphone operators, who have called a joint news conference here tomorrow to unveil their tariff riposte, are initially likely to offer a 50-60 per cent reduction in STD and ISD rates for cellphone subscribers and free incoming calls.

AirTel, Escotel, Hutch, Idea, RPG cellular, Spice and any other cellular operator who agrees to join the consortium will be able to offer free incoming calls between each other.

A bundled package with a mobile phone is also likely to be announced to match the IndiaMobile offer along with lower rentals and rental waiver in different tariff packages both for pre-paid and post-paid customers.

“We have agreed to offer a substantial cut in STD and ISD calls to all mobile subscribers and are likely to finalise details for free incoming calls to the subscriber within the network of all the cellular operators. A few of the operators have sought certain clarifications but we hope to convince them to offer free incoming calls,” said a senior executive of a leading cellular service provider.

On Saturday, T.V. Ramchandran, the director-general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, said: “We do not have any alternative but to bring down the tariffs if we are to survive in the market.”

A day-long meeting of leading cellular operators discussed the issue of reducing tariffs and approaching the regulator to push their demand for the creation of a level playing field vis-a-vis basic operators who offer the limited mobility service.

While the operators are scheduled to meet again tomorrow morning to finalise the unresolved issue of free incoming calls, they are also likely to reiterate their demand for a calling-party-pays regime that will enable the cellular subscriber to receive free incoming calls from fixed-line telephones.

“Fixed-line operators should give us the revenue earned for calls made from their network to the cellular network. This will automatically make incoming calls free for mobile users. Since this facility is available to limited mobility subscribers, it should be extended to us as well,” said a senior executive of a cellular service company.

The tariff battle is likely to hot up as even other limited mobility service providers like BSNL and MTNL are likely to rework their tariff structure.

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