The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cell tabs in dial duel with landlines

Want to stay connected' Pick up a cellphone or be prepared to pay more.

The message is ringing loud and clear from cell operators. The tariff plan announced on Thursday by private cell-operator Airtel and state-run telecom major Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) have given cell-users yet another reason to rejoice.

The Airtel appeal, with one of the “most simple tariff plans”, brought down the composite rate for cell-to-cell outgoing calls to Re 1, and cell-to- cell STD calls, anywhere in the country, to a new low of Rs 1.99.

The BSNL bouquet announced a cell-to-cell local call rate of 10 p per 15-second pulse. Under the new regime, cell-to-fixedline calls will be charged at Rs 1.20 a minute.

“With this new plan, Airtel 012, we are pitching our post-paid connections against landlines. A cell-to-cell call will cost Re 1 a minute, while a landline-to-cell call will cost Rs 1.20 per minute,” said Deepak Gulati, chief executive officer, Bharti Mobitel. According to Airtel, the new composite rates, including airtime and public-switched telephone network (PSTN) charges, will mark the beginning of “a new era” as cell-talk will become “cheaper” than landlines (see box).

“This is a move to tempt people to go cellular, and we expect the city market to expand as a consequence of the rate reduction,” said Gulati.

But BSNL is not buying that argument, yet. A senior official did admit that “following the international trend, the divergence between cellphone and fixed-line rates is on the decline”, but insisted that landlines “still provide the cheapest” mode of communication.

“Look at the pulse rate, where a landline-to-landline call costs you Rs 1.20 for three minutes, against a one-minute, Re-1 pulse for a cellphone. The minimum monthly rental is Rs 250 in our case, while it’s higher for them,” said the BSNL man.

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