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One-rupee battle goes to landline

Calcutta, Jan. 8: Reliance Infocomm is poised to offer one-rupee STD calls to its fixed-line users, who have so far been deprived of the benefit of tumbling telecom tariffs.

Until now, the price-war has been limited to mobile services while almost half-a-billion landline users have been left out. Reliance appears ready to change that for good.

While company officials are tight-lipped on the move, there have been indications that STD calls at Re 1 per minute on fixed-line telephones, known as fixed wireless phone (FWP), will be announced sooner than later. A similar was unveiled for mobile users a week ago.

An STD call from ordinary land phones costs Rs 2.40/minute, up to 50 kilometres. Local call could cost Rs 0.40 paise a minute, similar to rates that BSNL charges.

A plan that allows users to receive calls for life at zero rental is on the cards. Under this, there will be a one-time payment of about Rs 3,000 on the FWP phone. Most cell firms now allow incoming calls without recharge.

The offers from Reliance are targeted at the home users and small and medium-scale units. These will also help revive fixed phones, whose customers are fast dwindling.

Fixed phones, in India over 100 years, have been fast overtaken by mobiles, whose subscribers are already more than one-and-a-half times ' within 10 years of launch. In the last three years alone, 1.07 crore landlines have been returned. This has forced state-owned BSNL, which has virtual monopoly on fixed-line telephony, to slash rentals by 28 per cent from this month.

The subscriber base of mobile telephones (both GSM and CDMA) is now 75.92 million, up 58.13 per cent, in 2005. Fixed-line subscribers number 48.93 million, a rise of 9 per cent.

Reliance and Tata have drawn landline customers with phones that provide limited mobility within a small area compared with the traditional immobile wire-line phones.

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