Pre-paid card game hots up as players prepare for price cuts

Updated: Jan 25 2002, 05:30am hrs
Delhi's private cellular operators Hutchison Essar and AirTel are all set to cut airtime rates of their pre-paid cash cards by almost 45 per cent, in response to the launch of Trump, the pre-paid offering of Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL). The SIM card activation fee will also be slashed from the current level of Rs 499 to Rs 419, according to sources in the Hutchison Essar.

Also in the offing, according to sources, are rate cuts in monthly rental and airtime being paid by post-paid cellular subscribers to maintain the price difference between pre-paid and post-paid cards. Since the rate cuts in the pre-paid segment will almost bring the pre-paid customers at par with post-paid subscribers, we will drop the post-paid prices further to maintain the difference, said sources based in Hutchison Essar. However, the exact drop in post-paid rates has not been decided as of now.

Meanwhile, the new pre-paid rates, which will be in place by the end of January will see the airtime rate going down from Rs 5 per minute being charged right now to around Rs 2.75 per minute for outgoing calls, on a 30-second pulse. The incoming call rate will be brought down to Rs 1.99 per minute for a 30 second pulse from Rs 3 per minute right now, the source added.

Both Bharti Cellular and Hutchison Essar have filed the new rates with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). Bharti Enterprises Joint managing director Rajan Bharti Mittal confirmed that the company has filed the new rates with the Trai and is ready to slash prices any time now. Though he refused to reveal the exact rates, sources say that AirTel is likely to follow the rate cuts lead by Essar.

Meanwhile, the rate cuts are a fallout of the price war sparked off on January 14 by the launch of Trump at prices which are nearly 50 per cent lower than the existing rates. Trumps Delhi customers currently pay Rs 2.50 per minute for outgoing calls and Rs 1.80 per minute for incoming calls, on a 30 second pulse.

However, even after these rate cuts, the Delhi pre-paid customers still pay more than Mumbai subscribers. MTNL in Mumbai charges Rs 1.90 per minute for outgoing calls and Rs 1.75 per minute for incoming calls, on a 60 second pulse, as compared to the Orange and BPL rates of Rs 1.99 per minute for both incoming and outgoing calls.

The Trump SIM card is priced at Rs 399 in Delhi and Rs 225 in Mumbai as compared to Rs 249 currently charged by Mumbai service providers.