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Fixed line to take cue from cell STD cut

Calcutta, Jan. 4: Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has decided to bring down its long-distance call tariffs. An announcement to this effect is expected early next week.

On Thursday, a consortium of 10 mobile phone operators had announced a substantial cut in mobile-to-mobile STD rates, forcing BSNL to revise its tariff structure.

The proposed cut by BSNL — the country’s largest telecommunication company that connects 384 cities, 5,000 towns and 5 lakh villages — will benefit more than three crore people using fixed line telephones and one crore mobile phone users. “We are working on a new tariff structure, and will be seeking the approval of the Trai (the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) next week,” said BSNL chairman Prithipal Singh.

“Our existing mobile-to-mobile STD rates are cheaper than the other cellular operators. (BSNL offers cellular service under the CellOne brand.) It’s a question of reducing STD rates for calls made to fixed lines. All I can say at this point is that BSNL is going to offer the most competitive rates,” Singh added.

The industry is expecting fixed line STD rates to be pegged around Rs 4 for calls made beyond 500 km. Such calls now cost Rs 9 a minute.

Mobile-to-mobile long-distance calls beyond 50 km now cost Rs 2.99 per minute plus airtime charges that typically range between Re 1 and Rs 2 per minute.

The 10 mobile phone operators, offering the reduced STD rates, use Bharti Telesonic’s IndiaOne network to carry the calls. But IndiaOne does not connect fixed line phones. Hence, mobile-to-fixed line STD calls are still being carried through BSNL or VSNL networks.

Mobile-to-fixed line long-distance calls currently attract the same STD rates as applicable to calls made between fixed line phones. In addition to that, the mobile phone user has to foot the airtime charges levied by the cellular service provider.

BSNL’s tariff revision will also make mobile-to-fixed line STD calls cheaper.

However, it is not clear whether BSNL would match Bharti Telesonic’s long-distance rates. “National long distance is BSNL’s principal revenue-earner, and any cut in STD rates would lead to a fall in income,” said an industry monitor.

However, unless it manages to match Bharti Telesonic’s long-distance rates, BSNL may lose a sizeable portion of its lucrative business.

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