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Sunday, Jan 27, 2002

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Bharti launches NLD operations

G. Rambabu

NEW DELHI, Jan. 26

BHARTI Telesonic Ltd, the national long-distance (NLD) arm of the Bharti group, commenced its operations, as scheduled on Republic Day, to be the first private sector operators in this field, attempting to give the incumbent Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) a run for its money.

For a start, cellular subscribers in Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Maharashtra (including Mumbai), Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (west), Haryana, Gujarat and Punjab have a choice of routing all their mobile-to-mobile STD calls in these regions, either through Bharti network or through BSNL's.

While initial teething problems occurred, as is to be expected according to company officials, they were able to offer to the mobile subscribers in these regions a choice of service, something they had been denied so long.

All that a mobile users in these regions had to do was to dial 010+50+mobile number for making an NLD call to avail themselves of Bharti's services. For BSNL, the mobile user has to dial 010+20+mobile number. Although many mobile subscribers are still not aware of this, the company has promised to create awareness through a massive ad-campaign to "educate" the user.

The company is however not happy with the interim order of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which stipulates that all STD calls which do not bear the carrier access code should be routed by the cellular and basic operators alternately (every alternate day) between Bharti and the BSNL long-distance network. This would defeat the very purpose of competition, company officials said.

The company is planning to write to the TRAI on Monday, requesting that this "sharing" of calls should not be mandatory and the cellular operators should have the freedom to choose which network they route such calls through.

As for the revenue sharing of all such calls, it said that the 95:5 share which is in operation with BSNL will continue which means that the cellular operator get to retain only five per cent of revenues from STD calls as they pass on 95 per cent to Bharti.

Although Bharti had proposed a higher share to the cellular operators in the memorandum of understanding it had submitted to TRAI for approval, this could not be implemented because the authority raised objections.

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