R.K. Radhakrishnan and M. Dinesh Varma

‘India Golden 50’ scheme soon

CHENNAI: A cross-country phone call for 50 paise a minute? Yes, state-owned telecom giants are all set to make this a reality from later this month.

The scheme, “India Golden 50,” will make Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology A. Raja realise his dream of lowering the call charges to lower levels.

The local call rates charged by operators now vary from just under 50 paise (within an operator’s own network) to Re.1, and national call rates from Re.1 to Rs 2.65 a minute.

Mr. Raja had often asserted that the tariffs could come down to a level of 20 paise a minute for local calls and 50 paise for STD calls. It was not necessary for a central authority to fix the charges, he had contended. In line with this, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had been following the practice of forbearance. Hence, the tariffs are determined by market forces and not fixed by the regulator.

The Minister said here on an earlier occasion that the country needed another 300 million telephone lines and there was scope for the business to reach 750 million connections.

The mobile user’s wait to embrace the next level of communication appears to be nearing its end with the Government of India finalising the tentative dates for the national launch of 3G services through Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) from Chennai from February 23.

The Chennai Telephones has already set up 23 Base Transceiver stations (BTS) across the city. The management has reserved two BTS to facilitate the formal launch of 3G in the country. These BTSs would be set up in accordance with the convenience of Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who is now undergoing treatment at the Sri Ramachandra hospital.

BSNL officials propose to facilitate the launch either from the hospital, the Chief Minister’s Gopalapuram residence or the Secretariat. The plan is to have Mr. Karunanidhi make the first 3G call to Mr. Raja, who would be at the “Hall of Inspiration” at the BSNL complex on Anna Road.

Mr. Raja would be able to see Mr. Karunanidhi and the image would be put on a projector for the benefit of a select gathering of BSNL’s top brass and the media, it is learnt.

The 3G launch would add to the list of firsts that the Chennai Telephones has been achieving.