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Calls between Chennai-TN, Kolkata-WB deemed local

MAY 21, 2005 : PTI  : NEW DELHI: In a major benefit to mobile subscribers, Government today said that calls between Chennai and rest of the Tamil Nadu and likewise between Mumbai and Maharashtra, Kolkata and West Bengal, and in the whole of Uttar Pradesh would be treated as local calls.

This would result in saving roaming and long distance (STD) charges for consumers, Communication and IT Minister Dayanidhi Maran said, adding that service providers would continue to operate in the same manner based on telecom circles.

The minister said the facility would be only for calls terminating in the mobile network. This means calls from mobile to mobile and fixed to mobile within the states would be considered local.

Till now the three metros -- Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai and the rest of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra -- were treated as two separate telecom circles.

Similarly in Uttar Pradesh, which has been bifurcated into two telecom circles for licence purposes, the consumers in UP (East) and UP (West) would be able to connect as local calls now.

The new policy comes into effect from May 25, the minister said.

Sourse : Economictimes

Call alert: Govt may refer Reliance Info case to CBI

MAY 20, 2005 : MUMBAI: The controversy over the re-routing of overseas calls by Reliance Infocomm refuses to die down. Reliance Infocomm officials on Thursday declined to comment on media reports that the top management had proceeded with the controversial scheme, despite warnings that it could end up violating the law if it chose to re-route overseas calls as local calls to avoid paying charges to state run telcos.

Although the idea to tap the market for incoming calls from NRIs is said to be the brainchild of Akhil Gupta, the former Reliance official who now heads US private equity giant Blackstone's Indian operations, Mr Gupta is said to have distanced himself later as he was not in favour of the modus operandi.

A close friend of Mukesh Ambani, Mr Gupta had been closely involved with the Reliance group for a long time. Before his stint with Reliance Infocomm, Mr Gupta was involved in RIL's oil and gas business.

The internal communications between Infocomm officials have reached the government and it is possible that the matter may be investigated by the CBI or other agencies if the government so decides, sources said.

When contacted, a senior Trai official said, "Isn't the matter in the courts? I am really not aware of it. If there is something we are required to do under the Act, we will definitely look into it."

Efforts to contact the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) proved futile. Reliance Infocomm on Thursday declined to comment, saying the matter was sub judice.

According to media reports, Mr Gupta had alerted the management even before the launch of the service. "I have reservations regarding the 12 cents per minute to all phones and not just (Reliance phones),'' he said in an e-mail sent before the launch of the service. "Within seven to ten days of our commercial launch, BSNL will know.

It will clearly be established that we are violating in spirit if not the law and avoiding paying ADC (access deficit charge) to BSNL or government," he had warned.

When his warnings were ignored, he offered to resign and hand over these functions to another aide of Mukesh Ambani, Manoj Modi, executive director, Infocomm and BD Khurana, group president, Reliance Infocomm.

"I suggest that we hand over the sponsorship (or management) of the NRI scheme to MM\BDK (Manoj Modi\BD Khurana)," he wrote in an e-mail. Ultimately, however, he stayed on at Infocomm, but was in charge of marketing in the US, while the regulatory aspects were looked after by Mr Modi.

On September 30, last year, ET broke the story about Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) accusing Infocomm of tampering with the country codes of incoming international calls so as to save on the ADC payable to BSNL for ILD calls. Shortly thereafter, MTNL too alleged that Infocomm owed it about Rs 200 crore as ADC for ILD calls that were illegally re-routed as local calls.

Incidentally, when the call re-routing scheme came under the scanner, the market was agog with rumours that Mr Modi was responsible for the re-routing scheme. Kamal Nanavaty, COO, wireless business, Infocomm, had refused comment to ET's queries regarding the issue.

However, according to media reports, there were rumours that Mr Gupta was the brain behind the scheme to re-route the ILD calls. Mr Gupta denied this in a mail quoted in a media report.

Infocomm had earlier threatened to pursue the case in the Supreme Court, after TDSAT ruled against it and asked it to pay up the Rs 150-crore fine. After these e-mails hinting that the management knew it was treading a thin line, it is not known if Infocomm will still pursue the case.

Sourse : Economictimes

Reliance Info launches 2 zero-rental plans

MAY 18, 2005 : NEW DELHI: Reliance Infocomm (RIC) is introducing two zero-rental plans- New joy 299 ZR and New Joy 649 ZR,. And all new subscribers will now automatically get STD (Subscribers Trunk Dialing) facility immediately on address verification.

With the new plans, subscribers would be provided free intra-circle calls worth the entire monthly rental making them virtually zero-rental. Intra-circle calls to all Reliance phones would cost 50 paise per minute while those to non-Reliance phones would cost Rs 1.50 per minute under the New Joy 299 ZR and Re one per minute under New Joy 649 ZR.

"Lowest calling rates along with the option of unlimited talk time packs make these by far the best zero rental plans in the market today," says Inder Bajaj, Head Postpaid Business, Reliance Infocomm.

Sourse : Economictimes

BSNL cuts ISD rates by 33%
MAY 17, 2005 : NEW DELHI: Initiating another round of tariff war in telecom sector, state-owned BSNL on Tuesday announced a major reduction in the international long distance (ISD) call rates for Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Africa, Gulf and SAARC countries to Rs 12 per minute from the existing Rs 18 a minute.

The new tariffs will come into effect from midnight of May 20, BSNL Chairman and Managing Director A K Sinha said during World Telecom Day celebrations here.

The reduced rates will be applicable from landline, cellular and WLL networks of BSNL, he said, adding the highest ISD tariff to any part of the world from BSNL network will be Rs 12 per minute.

BSNL also announced a hefty discount upto 25 per cent on domestic bandwidth which may result in reduction in broadband tariff.

The discount on domestic bandwidth would be applicable in 74 major cities, including all state capitals and union territories.

Sourse : Economictimes

MTNL ups pulse rate to 5 minutes
MAY 17, 2005 : MUMBAI: First, the good news. The pulse rate for landline-to-landline local calls has been increased from three minutes to five minutes by Mahanagar Telephone Nigam . Now, the bad news. The new pulse rate is effective only at night - to be specific, between 11 pm and 6 am.

While it appears that the MTNL move may not prove useful for most people, the corporation appears to have good reason and numbers to back its move.

From the numbers, it appears that many Mumbaikars do not sleep much, and seem to be on the phone instead. MTNL Mumbai reports more than 10 lakh minutes of talktime between 11 pm and 6 am every night.

The increased pulse rate will also help those who want to surf the net at night using dial-up services . Unlike the earlier cost of Rs 24 per hour of surfing, using the telephone line for internet surfing would now cost about Rs 14.40 per hour.

MTNL has been trying to encourage students and others to surf the internet during off-peak hours by lowering night tariffs. For instance, it has introduced a plan that allows for free browsing between midnight and 8 am under the 'unlimited night browsing plan'.

Responding to a query by ET, MTNL Mumbai officials revealed that a good five lakh calls are made every night. These figures represent traffic from only 60-70% of MTNL's exchanges. The exact details of traffic from all exchanges was not immediately available with MTNL officials.

Most of these calls are made between 11 pm and 1 am, after which traffic drops steeply. The traffic between these two hours is equal to about 15% of the average hourly traffic seen during the rest of day.

Not surprisingly, MTNL has decided to reduce the pulse rate for landline-to-landline local calls between 11 pm and 6 am. This would result in a saving of close to 16 paise per minute (exact numbers could vary depending on the plan). MTNL's executive director, Kuleep Goyal says, "This is a further improvement in our daytime tariffs."

The new pulse rate spells good news for night birds like teenagers and love birds who like to whisper sweet nothings over the phone for hours together Protests growing against telecom towers Kripa Raman Mumbai , May 18 THE NIMBY (Not In My BackYard) movement is creeping into the country and threatens to write a bad chapter or two in the happy Indian telecommunications growth story....


Source : Business Line