In a bonanza for subscribers, the two state-owned telecom companies, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd, on Friday launched 'OneIndia' plan charging a maximum tariff of Re 1 per minute for a call to any place in the country, effective from March 1.
They also reduced local call rates to Re 1 for a 3-minute call. But this comes with an increase in rental of Rs 49 to Rs 299 per month from the existing Rs 250.
The chairmen and managing directors of both BSNL and MTNL said that all existing tariff plans would continue to be in operation including the lower rentals scheme in rural areas and 'OneIndia' tariff plan would be optional.
Under the new tariff package for BSNL's landline users, the local call charges will be Re 1 for 3 minutes within BSNL network (earlier Rs 1.20 for three minutes), while calls to other networks both landline and mobile will be Rs 1 per minute within a state (intra-circle).
This was earlier Rs 1.20 a minute.
All other calls made from landline or mobile phones anywhere in the country would be charged at the rate of Re 1 a minute which was earlier approximately 2.40 a minute, BSNL chairman A K Sinha told reporters.
For MTNL landline users, who were previously paying Rs 1.90 a minute for a Delhi-Mumbai STD call will now pay Re 1 a minute for the same call to any network, along with Rs 299 monthly rental.
The same charges of Re 1 a minute applies even to calls within the state (intra-circle) which was earlier Rs 1.20 a minute. Local calls to landline will be Re 1 for three minutes (earlier Rs 1.20 for 3 minutes).
For its post-paid mobile services, BSNL has proposed a rental of Rs 299 and the calls to other BSNL subscribers would be at the rate of 40 paise a minute within the state (intra-circle). Calls to any other network across the country (STD) would attract a tariff of Re 1 a minute, he said.
BSNL's pre-paid subscribers, on the other hand, are being offered a package or Rs 799 which would include a talk time of Rs 550 for a validity period of 30 days. Under the package, calls made to BSNL subscribers would be at the rate of 60 paise per minute, while for other networks it would be at the rate of Re 1 a minute.
For MTNL cellular subscribers, the charges have been reduced by 60 per cent for STD calls with a Re 1 per minute tariff to MTNL as well as any other network.
MTNL mobile calls within Delhi and Mumbai (intra-circle), will be 40 paise a minute for a call to BSNL and MTNL post-paid cellular users and Rs 60 paise a minute to BSNL and MTNL pre-paid users.
At a glittering laser show to fulfil Communication Minister Dayanidhi Maran's wish of OneIndia plan, both BSNL and MTNL put up a brave face and said there would be 'absolutely' no loss of revenue as traffic was expected to grow by over 30 per cent to compensate the loss, if any.
BSNL had been opposing the OneIndia plan ever since Maran announced it saying that BSNL would end up losing close to Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 40 billion) annually affecting its rural telephony expansion plans severely.
However, both BSNL and MTNL on Friday said: "There would be no loss of revenue and the tariffs were Interconnect Usage Charges and Access Deficit Charge-compliant as prescribed by TRAI, the telecom regulator."
As per the existing Interconnect Usage Charge (IUC) regime the operator has to shell out 30 paise each for origination, termination and ADC and up to Rs 1.10 towards carriage charge (depending upon the distance).
Going by this, STD call rates cannot be brought down below Rs 1.85 for a distance between 200-500 km and Rs 2 a minute for call beyond 500 km.
But the telecom majors believe that with the arrival of revenue-share based ADC and carriage charges being lowered, the Rs 1 a minute STD would be the most competitive tariff.
With the death of geographical barriers as calls will cost Rs 1 a minute from Dwarka to Dimapur and Kashmir to Kanyakumari, BSNL and MTNL are hoping that losses notwithstanding, they could regain the fixed-line telephony market that they lost due to competitive tariffs of mobile telephony.
"With this, the tariffs of mobile telephony and fixed line phones have become same and this should encourage the use of fixed line phones by customers," the BSNL chief said.
Reliance Infocomm has already introduced Re 1 tariff under one of its mobile plans.