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Cell rates break distance barrier in Bengal

May 21: The government today announced that long distance calls between Calcutta and the rest of Bengal on mobile phones will now be treated as local calls.

Similar treatment will be accorded to calls between Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra, Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu and between the two circles of Uttar Pradesh.

The new policy comes into effect from May 25.

Telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran said this would lead to savings in roaming and long distance charges for consumers in these areas.

Maran made it clear that this benefit would be extended to all calls terminating in the mobile networks. Analysts said this benefit would also cover calls made from fixed to mobile phones in these states.

The minister, who made this announcement on the eve of UPA government’s completion of one year, said telecom service providers would, however, continue to operate in the same manner based on telecom circles such as separate circles for UP (East) and UP (West) and separate circles for Calcutta and West Bengal.

“The access providers will operate within their existing licensed service areas and shall not be permitted to create infrastructure outside their areas for the purpose of inter-service area connectivity,” Maran said.

“They will, however, be allowed to lease lines for such connectivity. The inter-service area connectivity will only be for terminating traffic.” Mobile customers in these circles will benefit from the cut in call costs and this will spur growth of services in these areas, he said.

Manoj Kohli, president of Bharti Cellular, said all AirTel customers can avail of the benefits of no roaming, local calls and no zero dialling.

Hutch was not available for comment.

CDMA operators Tata Teleservices and Reliance Infocomm said the move would benefit customers in the region and also add to the subscriber base. Neither of the two operators charge any monthly rental from their subscribers.

Rajesh Puri, chief operating officer (eastern hub) of Tata Teleservices, said the move would definitely lead to a growth in subscriber base and the benefit would be extended to Indicom subscribers.

The government has been worried about the fall in market share of the two state-run telecom firms ' BSNL and MTNL. The market share of the two public sector telecom companies declined from 98.65 per cent to 91.39 per cent even in the fixed-line market where they enjoyed near monopoly during the last two years.

Till now the three metros 'Chennai, Calcutta and Mumbai 'and the rest of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra were treated as two separate telecom circles.

The state-run MTNL and BSNL networks will be able to leverage this new pricing best as they are strong in these particular areas and may be able to come out with more value-added packages based on this basic announcement, analysts said.

Maran also said that the state-run BSNL had been supplying mobile phones on demand since December and would soon be coming out with 3G services, which would allow high-speed downloads on mobile phones enabling a user to watch video and movie clips, live sports or theatrical performances and trading on the stock market using real-time price information.

Maran said a decision would be taken within the next three months on the allocation of additional spectrum to the telecom players.

Earlier this month, the telecom regulator had come out with its recommendations on spectrum allocation that sought to be technology neutral and refused to throw open the controversial 1900 Mhz band which has been reserved for the defence services.

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