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Airtel hikes international long distance tariffs

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After tweaking its domestic rates, Bharti Airtel has now jacked up its tariffs for international long distance calls to more than 20 countries, including the UAE and Africa. The tariff hike, ranging between 20 and 40 per cent, comes in the backdrop of a 38 per cent decline in the operator's profits in the second quarter this year.

The biggest increase is on calls to Hong Kong, which will now cost Rs 10 a minute, instead of Rs 6.4 a minute earlier. The price of calls to the UAE and some African countries has been hiked by Rs 2 a minute. There is, however, no change in the price of calls to the UK and the US — the two top destinations for international calling.

An Airtel spokesperson said the tariff rationalisation was a function of market dynamics. “With the correction of tariffs for a few international destinations we continue to remain competitive and deliver value to our customers,” the spokesperson said.

Idea Cellular had recently increased its ISD tariffs by 15 per cent by fixing a minimum fee of Rs 10 per minute. Other mobile operators are expected to follow suit given that they are keen to improve revenue flows.

In July, all the operators raised their local calling rates by almost 20 per cent. Last week, Airtel reduced the validity of lifetime prepaid cards from six months to two. According to analysts, consumers are being asked to pay more because of the continuously declining margins for operators, high 3G and BWA auction prices, constrained spectrum and the high cost of rural rollout. “If the industry fundamentals stay poor, further tariff hikes could be on the cards,” said an industry expert.

(This article was published on November 16, 2011)
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