The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Incoming free, cell to cell
- Charges stay for calls from fixed lines

New Delhi, Jan. 21: Cellular companies continue to shower their customers with freebies: starting tonight, some pre- and post-paid consumers will not have to pay for incoming calls from other mobile users.

Not all cellular users will immediately benefit from the new mobile-to-mobile free incoming call regime. The Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) said some networks will not be able to make the transition for technical reasons.

The transition, in some cases, could stretch right up to the end of next month. The two Calcutta networks — Hutch and Airtel — are expected to decide tomorrow when to introduce the relief.

Today’s concession almost vests a cellphone with the biggest advantage of a fixed-line phone: don’t pay when called.

‘Almost’ because cellphone users will still have to pay for calls from fixed-line telephone users since the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd along with Reliance Infocomm are not part of the deal.

This means calls from IndiaOne and Dolphin — the cellular services of the two PSUs — will involve a charge.

The deal covers the Airtel, Hutch, Escotel, Oasis, RPG Cellular, Spice Telecom, Idea and BPL Mobile networks.

Cellular operators said in a statement that they had decided to extend this benefit on the assurance from the government that telecom regulator Trai would soon come out with non-discriminatory and cost-based rules for interconnection.

A Reliance executive said cellular operators had not given adequate time to discuss the issue and arrive at a decision. “We are not rejecting their proposal. We will consider it and a decision will be announced soon,” said a Reliance spokesperson.

However, BSNL’s cellular mobile subscribers (IndiaOne) are unlikely to get the benefit since it is not a member of the COAI. Sources said BSNL would come out with a scheme of its own soon.

The latest freebie comes on top of a major concession announced early this month for post-paid subscribers who can now make cell-to-cell STD calls at Rs 2.99 per minute any time during the day or night.

The next benefit that cellular companies are contemplating is an almost 50 per cent reduction in the international call rates (currently charged at Rs 24 per minute) — which may kick in later this week.

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