Customers to choose from calling cards of different operators

International long distance call charges are set to come down with the telecom regulator introducing a new measure that will intensify competition in this segment. TRAI has allowed telephone users of one operator to use calling cards issued by another operator.

For example, a Vodafone user will now be able to make calls to the US or UK using Reliance’s global calling card. Until now, a Vodafone subscriber was forced to make ISD calls using only Airtel’s network.

The new system also opens up the game for foreign giants such as BT, AT&T and Orange which can now sell their voice calling cards to retail and enterprise users in India. These multinational firms, at present are offering only data services to large corporates.

TRAI has directed all operators to open up their access networks to enable customers to make the choice and use calling cards of other players.

According to industry watchers, this could trigger a price war in a segment, where tariffs have remained flat over the past few years. In addition, consumers could also get dynamic pricing on various international routes. An operator with more traffic to the Gulf region could offer cheaper calls than another player which has heavy traffic on the US route. Although there are 27 companies in the country with a licence to offer international long distance services, most of them are not offering voice calling facility to retail users. That’s because the telecom company which owns the subscriber does not allow another operator to give access to their services. As a result, ISD tariffs in the country have not declined for many years. A call to the US, for instance, is priced at around Rs 7, which has been at the same level since 2008.

The TRAI is examining a number of other aspects in the long distance telephony segment, including ways to bring competition in the cable landing station segment. There are 12 undersea cables landing on Indian shores but most of the landing stations are controlled by just two players — Bharti Airtel and Tata Communications. According to other ILD players, this has kept the landing charges artificially high which in turn is adding to the bandwidth cost.

thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 19, 2012)
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