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Bharti now wants TRAI to look into predatory pricing
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India’s leading mobile services provider Bharti Airtel has urged telecom regulator Trai to look into the business models of some rival telcos that offer rock-bottom tariffs to woo customers, in a rare display of nervousness over the ongoing tariff war in the telecom space, which has sent revenues and profits of all operators crashing.

Bharti’s demand that Trai should look into what it termed as ‘predatory pricing’ by telcos came on a day when the country’s congested mobile market witnessed the entry of yet another player, Norway’s Telenor.

“Trai should look at predatory pricing... The current tariff structure is lower than the cost structure of operators. Clearly, tariffs have to be sustainable in the long run,” Bharti Airtel CEO Manoj Kohli told reporters on Thursday.

Thirteen mobile phone firms are jostling for space in a market that most analysts say can sustain only 4-5 operators. Earlier this week, state-owned MTNL had raised the bar for competitive tariffs by announcing a half paise-per-second plan for mobile calls on its 2G and 3G networks in Delhi and Mumbai circles.

But other operators did not subscribe to Bharti’s views: “We know our business and have worked out the economics before we launched the one-paise-per-second plan. One should compete and not complain,” said an MD of a large telco. “When shareholders and promoters are not complaining about our business model and tariff offerings, how can a competitor have a problem?” said a top executive with another telco.

An executive with a new entrant said: “When Trai wanted all telcos to provide the per-second billing option, large operators opposed the move and sought that tariffs be left to market forces. But, when market forces take over, they want the regulator to step in. Any reduction in tariffs benefits customers and therefore their stance is anti-consumer,” he added.

A Department of Telecom official said that government welcomes all initiatives by operators to lower tariffs.

“Telecom minister A Raja wants tariffs to be as low as 10 paise per minute for local calls and 25 paise per minute for STD calls — we believe this is possible in the near future. The consumer must enjoy the benefits of low tariffs,” he added.

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