The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cell shock in STD calls for Calcutta

Calcutta, Jan. 3: A lady today called her friend in Ghaziabad on her mobile phone: it’s only Rs 2.99 a minute, she thought.

Not quite. Once she checked the charge after the 10-minute call, she realised she had spent around Rs 100. At Rs 2.99 plus airtime charge, it shouldn’t have been more than Rs 40.

The lady was angry. So were many other Calcuttans who made STD calls on their cellphones.

A cartel of 10 cellphone operators had announced yesterday that the tariff cut for long-distance calls would take effect from midnight last night. It did not say then that the new rate would not be applicable to calls made from or received by mobile phones in Calcutta for another seven to 10 days.

When subscribers phoned the call centres of the two cellular service providers in Calcutta seeking clarification they were told: “Please wait for an announcement to be made. The new tariff will be effective in a week to 10 days.”

Cellphone operators offering the new tariff are using Bharti Telesonic’s IndiaOne network to carry long-distance calls. The new tariff is effective only for long-distance calls routed through the network, which connects most other major cities in the country. However, Calcutta has not yet been connected to the network. Hence, calls made from or reaching the city will have to be routed through Bharat Sanchar Nigam or Videsh Sanchar Nigam’s network.

“BSNL and VSNL have not reduced their long-distance rates and, hence, we cannot offer the new tariff for calls made from or to mobile phones in Calcutta,” explained the two cellular service providers of the city — Airtel and Hutch.

United in defence, they claimed: “We never said that the new rates were being made effective in the city. Subscribers should have checked with our customer-care centres before calling.”

Shouldn’t they have made this clear when they announced the rate cut with such fanfare yesterday'

Those calling Calcutta on their mobile phones are worse off. It is more difficult — virtually impossible — for them to realise that the new tariff is not valid for calls made to Calcutta, though it is effective for calls made to “all other cities”.

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