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May 21, 2002 | 1305 IST
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Bharti, BSNL finalise interconnect deal

Thomas K Thomas

Bharti Telesonic and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd on Monday finalised the interconnect deal for long-distance calls: national and international.

As per the deal, BSNL will pay Bharti Rs 11.75 per minute for outgoing international calls. For incoming international calls, BSNL will charge Bharti Rs 4.40 per minute for carrying calls within a radius of 50 km on its network.

For 50-200 km, Bharti will pay Rs 6.40 per minute, and for 200-500 km, Rs 8.80 per minute. Beyond 500 km, Bharti will shell out Rs 13 per minute to BSNL.

The two companies will sign a memorandum of understanding for carrying calls on each other's network.

"We have finalised the interconnect arrangement with Bharti. Hopefully, it will be signed today," Prithipal Singh, BSNL chairman and managing director, said.

For national long-distance calls, Bharti will pay BSNL Rs 3.50 a minute if the call originates on a mobile phone and terminates on BSNL's network. However, if the STD call originates on a fixed-line phone, Bharti will not have to pay anything to BSNL for terminating on the latter's network.

BSNL will similarly pay Bharti for calls originating on its network and terminating on Bharti's cellular network. The rates are wholesale settlement rates, not what the subscribers' will have to pay. The subscribers' rates will be decided by the operators.

Apart from Bharti, BSNL has also entered into an MoU with Data Access. It is also in talks with VSNL-Tata for revising the interconnect arrangement.

Sources close to the Bharti-BSNL deal said that though the MoU would be signed on Monday or Tuesday, Bharti was not happy with the arrangement.

They said Bharti was signing the deal because it had little choice. However, the deal will pave the way for Bharti's access to BSNL's 35 million fixed-line subscribers.

Sources in Bharti said the interconnect deal signed between the two could be considered a stop-gap arrangement because it was heavily skewed in favour of BSNL. They pointed out Bharti would be waiting for the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's decision on the matter.

Bharti sources said the interconnect terms would make international calls expensive if they were not revised in 60 days. If BSNL had agreed not to take anything for terminating a cellular call, as they did for fixed-line services, it would have been possible for cellular operators to bring tariffs below Re 1 a minute, they added.

BSNL will also implement the carrier access code across all its exchanges for national long-distance calls, in 10 days. This will enable subscribers to choose their national long-distance operator, depending on the quality of service and tariff.

The absence of the carrier access code and a lack of interconnections were holding up Bharti's long-distance operations.

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