Mobile call rates see steep drop: Arch rivals Nepal Telecom, Ncell on cost cutting spree

Tuesday - 3rd August, 2010 | | General News

Although the country’s two largest mobile service operators Nepal Telecom and Ncell do not admit being engaged in a price war, the cost of calls has dropped with new schemes by both.

Ncell, the first private mobile service operator, recently decreased the price of off-net calls setting the standard rate of making calls from its pre-paid to Rs. 1.99 nationwide. On May 14, it introduced a scheme for international long distance calls that allows post-paid and prepaid customers to make calls at Rs. 6 to 10 various countries including the US, India, Canada, China and others.  

Now state-owned Nepal Telecom is preparing to reduce its call rates soon because of the price slash pressure from the Ncell. It has also asked the regulatory body Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) for its approval of the reduced price of international long distance calls based on VOIP gateway.

“We are preparing to reduce the call rate focusing the pre-paid users,” said Surendra Prasad Thike, spokesperson of Nepal Telecom. “We will also look for other options even if making calls from our post-paid is cheaper compared to other mobile networks.” Nepal Telecom has proposed to offer international call at Rs. 3 per minute to Canada, Hong Kong, China, India, Singapore, Thailand and the US. Rs. 5 per minute for making calls in Malaysia, South Korea, and Macau. Rs. 6 for calls in Israel, Taiwan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Similarly, Nepal Telecom has proposed to provide international call service per minute at Rs. 10 to the UK and Australia. And Rs. 8 per minute has been proposed for making calls to Japan and Russia, according to the NTA. 

“We are studying the proposal submitted by Nepal Telecom and hopefully will soon approve it,” said Sandeep Adhikari of the consumer and economic analysis section of the NTA. “Today, Ncell has also asked for approving its post-paid tariff of Rs. 1.99 per minute for making calls to other networks.”

Ncell, which had speeded up the promotion targeting the corporate segment immediately after its re-branding from Mero Mobile to Ncell, has now also started attracting more people with low purchasing power by offering what is probably the cheapest handsets manufactured by ZTE at Rs. 999 and Rs. 1,199 respectively with SIM card and free talk time worth Rs. 99. “We will always look for alternatives for offering quality service to our valued subscribers at low price,” said Mansur Khamidov, chief commercial officer of the Ncell. “But, we are not in a price war.”

Meanwhile, Ncell has started distributing the cheaper handsets in Bagmati Zone from Sunday. “We decided to distribute handsets in Bagmati Zone with the very good response received from other parts of the country,” said Khamidov. “We will continue this promotion reaching people having low income.”

As part of making its subscriber network safe and help prevent it from being used in criminal activities, Ncell is also carrying out a customer reverification programme in the Gandaki Zone. “We will continue the reverification programme across the country,” said Sanju Koirala, corporate communication manager of Ncell.

As of Sunday, Ncell has reverified around 40,000 customers of Gandaki Zone. There are around 200,000 Ncell subscribers in this zone.