TRAI spoils mobile users’ dream plans

By : |February 2, 2004 0

NEW DELHI: Tariffs in the Indian mobile phone industry have been raised following the introduction of new charges by the telecoms regulator, leading GSM-based cellular services firms said.

The price hikes follow the regulator’s implementation on Sunday of inter-connect user charges (IUC) and other costs meant to subsidise state-run telecoms firm Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd’s loss-making expansion into the country’s vast rural areas.

“The costs have increased for everybody because of the new IUC charges announced by the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India),” T.V. Ramachandran, chief of the cellular operators association, told Reuters. “These would have to be passed on to the end-user.”

India’s nascent mobile market, which has about 30 million users, boasts some of the lowest call rates in the world thanks to cut-throat competition in the sector that is ranked as one of the fastest growing markets globally.

Over the past two years, money-losing mobile firms have slashed tariffs to lure users into the under-penetrated Indian market where less than three in 100 people own a mobile phone compared with more than 20 in China and over 60 in Europe.

Telecoms firms levy a reciprocal or interconnect charge for carrying calls on their networks to each other’s users.

Bharti Tele-Ventures Ltd, India’s No 2 mobile services provider, said in a statement it has increased prices for select local calls, domestic long distance and overseas calls. Per minute rates were hiked between 3.75 percent and 50.3 percent.

New Delhi-based Bharti said tariffs were left untouched for mobile-to-mobile local calls, at 1.99 rupees (four U.S. cents) per minute, and international calls for countries other than the Gulf region for post-paid customers.

Bharti, 28 percent-owned by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, provides mobile services to more than six million customers through the GSM technology standard, which is widely used around the world.

Reliance Infocomm Ltd, the country’s largest mobile services provider which has employed the rival CDMA platform, has not yet increased tariffs.

A spokesperson for the Indian mobile unit of Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa conglomerate told Reuters tariffs on some post-paid and pre-paid plans had been hiked.

© Reuters

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