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Return call in cell rate war

New Delhi, Jan. 7: The cellular rate war rose to a higher pitch today when state-owned telephony companies, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), slashed cell-to-cell STD rates.

An STD call made by BSNL’s CellOne subscriber to another on the same network in the country will cost Rs 4.80 per minute against Rs 9 at present. Unlike the private cellular operators who are charging Rs 2.99 per minute, BSNL’s tariff will not have any airtime. Some private cellular operators now have an airtime charge of Re 1 per minute.

MTNL, on the other hand, is offering STD calls on its Dolphin cellular service at Rs 2.90, but with an airtime charge that will depend on the payment plan the subscriber opts for.

The new rates will come into effect from Tuesday midnight. But the pre-paid subscribers of BSNL and MTNL will not be able to get the benefit. When private cellular operators slashed the rates, they had included both pre-paid and post-paid subscribers.

On January 2, the private cellular operators triggered the rate war in STD tariffs, largely in response to Reliance Infocomm’s aggressive tariff package for its IndiaMobile limited mobility service, due to be launched next month.

BSNL’s 800,000 cellular subscribers will have something else to cheer about: STD tariff on the calls they make to fixed-line telephones will also be charged at Rs 4.80 a minute. However, the lower rate is not being extended to its 4 crore fixed-line telephony subscribers when they make STD calls to cellular subscribers on the CellOne network. MTNL, which operates in Delhi and Mumbai, has about 250,000 Dolphin subscribers and over 500,000 fixed-line subscribers.

Both the government-owned telecom companies have also decided to do away with the Rs 3 roaming charge. Incoming calls will be free within BSNL’s nationwide network. The same benefit is being extended to calls made to and from the MTNL network.

Prithipal Singh, the BSNL chairman and managing director, said: “We may reduce tariffs further. We have already received an order from the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) that allows us to announce the tariffs and then file the same with Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India).

Commenting on the benefits of the STD rate-cut being extended only to their post-paid subscribers, Singh said: “We are examining the issue and will soon announce a separate package for them. We are also in discussion with Trai to reduce the fixed line-to-fixed line STD rates.”

n Rate chart on Page 6

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