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Make intl calls from coin-operated PCOs

Rajesh S Kurup  |  Mumbai 

Now an international call is just a coin-operated PCO away. You can call anywhere in the world from a coin-operated public call office (PCO), with these ubiquitous machines undergoing change to support global and national calls.
However, compared to the single Re 1 coin for a 60-second local call, you will have to insert a number of coins, depending on the country to which you are making the call.
This has opened up a plethora of opportunities for both the private sector and state-owned companies. Companies like state-owned Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL), Reliance Communications and Bharti Airtel are rolling out coin-operated PCOs that will support international calls across the country.
According to MTNL Chairman And Managing Director RSP Sinha, reduction in tariffs has resulted in fall in international call rates.
For example, in 1999 MTNL used to get 25 per cent of its total revenue from international calls, which fell to mere 1 per cent in 2005. Also, with increase in modes of communication like e-mail and web chat the revenue has reduced, thereby resulting in companies moving ILD calls to coin-operated PCOs.
Like other companies, MTNL has also rolled hundreds of coin-operated PCOs that enable ISD calls in hinterlands.
Now, the company plans to extend this to other parts of the country.
The country had around 5.55 million PCOs as on March 31, 2007, an increase from 4.5 million PCOs in service as on June 30, 2006.
BSNL, with 2.11 million is the largest provider of PCO services as on March 2007, according to data compiled by the Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
The private operators in the country has around 318 million PCOs, with Bharti Airtel providing services on 222,000 million PCOs, HFCL 42,978, Shyam Telelink 41,698 and Reliance Communications 1,600,000 million among others.
Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd (TTML) vice-president (marketing) Ajay Mathur said: "We have begun offering STD and ISD calls from coin-operated PCOs, which has been possible due to reduction in tariffs".
Due to reduction in international long distance (ILD) tariffs there has been a sharp reduction in international call rates. For example, call charges to the US are around Rs 7 per minute from Rs 75 a year ago.
Tata Tele has over .5 million PCOs and is adding 20,000-25,000 units a month. A number PCOs in the country support ISD and STD calling and Tata Tele is planning to extend it to all PCOs. But, as of now, this is being limited to fied wireless phones (FWPs) and might be extended to other PCOs as well.

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First Published: Tue, October 02 2007. 00:00 IST