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MTNL ups ante in cellular rate war

Mumbai, May 23: Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL) today took the cellular battle into the camp of rivals with rate cuts that give users the best bargain so far.

MTNL services Delhi and Mumbai, the country’s most lucrative mobile enclaves. “It is a reiteration to customers that they will get the latest technology and the most affordable rates,” chairman and managing director Narendra Sharma said at a hastily arranged press conference.

Cell-to-cell long distance (STD) calls have turned cheaper by up to 60 per cent. Cell-to-cell STD tariffs will be Rs 1.80 per minute for a plan with monthly rental of Rs 1,000; it will be Rs 1.90 on a monthly rental of Rs 250.

Local cell-to-cell calls will cost as low as 30 paise a minute if one forks out a monthly rental of Rs 1,000. Calls to fixed line and WiLL phones will cost 60 paise under this plan.

For those who choose to pay a monthly rental of Rs 250, local cell-to-call will cost Rs 1.60, while a call to fixed and WiLL phone will be charged at Rs 1.90 a minute.

STD charges for cell to fixed line and WILL phones will depend on the distance. A call will cost Rs 1.90 up to 200 kms, Rs 2.90 between 200 and 500 kms and Rs 3.90 beyond 500 kms in the lowest monthly rental plan. Short messaging service will come for 80 paise each. Trump pre-paid cards will also be lighter on the wallet now.

Starting out as the dawdling third mobile operator in the two cities, MTNL made it clear it was raring to wrest the initiative by adding four lakh lines each in Mumbai and Delhi. It has lined up an investment of Rs 1200 crore this year, of which Rs 800 crore will be evenly spread out across CDMA and GSM mobile systems.

The announcement of the tariff cut came along with a resolve to get MTNL into shape to face nimbler rivals. A VRS package now being finalised by the company could send many of its 57,000 employees home. “We will take the proposal to our board soon,” Sharma said.

William Mercer, an international consultant, was roped in last year to stitch up the job-cut plan which, sources say, is almost ready. The average age of MTNL employees is 45 years and analysts tracking the New York Stock Exchange-listed PSU say it compares poorly the 1500-2500 hands in a private telecom service provider.

Going a long way to clear the air on the confusion over calls from PCOs to cellular and WiLL phones, MTNL said it has sent Trai a proposal to reduce the pulse rate from three minutes to 90 secs, or even two minutes.

In an attempt to broaden its base, MTNL will soon start offering a telephone number for Rs 50. It will allow a subscriber to get phone messages and also call from any number with a pre-paid card. It is targeting students and others in low-income groups for this facility.

Idea’s gambit

Idea cellular has announced reduced night tariffs (9 pm to 9 am) of 99 paise per minute for its pre-paid users in Delhi and the National Capital Region with immediate effect.

“We have decided to charge 99 paise for calls between 9 pm to 9 am compared with Rs 1.49 per minute. The earlier plan was valid in the night, from 10 pm to 8 am,” company chief operating officer (Delhi circle) Himanshu Kapania told reporters in Delhi this evening.

The outgoing charges for mobile to mobile, landline and WiLL calls during the daytime (9 am to 9 pm) remain unchanged at Rs 2.49 per minute, as will SMS charges at 99 paise each.

The company intends to offer a free talk-time worth Rs 150 in new pre-paid connections.

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