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Telcos bet on India calling services

india Updated: Mar 10, 2008 00:21 IST
Ruchi Hajela
Ruchi Hajela
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Traveling overseas and worried about the inflated phone bills from international roaming? Help may be at hand, with affordable rates to call India.

Take for instance the case of Bharti Airtel which has spruced up its CallHome service - a virtual calling card (VCC) service that allows users to call India numbers at affordable rates - to tap into the growing numbers of NRIs (non-resident Indians) and frequent travellers.

The revised rates allow you to call India numbers for as low as Rs 2.40 from the States (the service is only available in the US only at present), the lowest in the market so far.

“Users can dial in our toll-free access number, which means that one doesn’t have to pay anything in addition to our tariff if they use any US number,” said David Nishball, President, Airtel - Enterprise Services.

However, using a payphone may have you shell out a couple of more cents – 69 cents as is mentioned on the company website, which makes the total cost of a one-minute call to Rs 29.20 approximately, still a lot lower than what you will end up paying on international roaming. The company plans to extend the service to Singapore and Canada in the April-June quarter.

The lowest denomination of the virtual calling card that you can buy is $ 5 or about Rs 200. Until now, only users residing in the US could buy online credit but now, even Indian credit card holders can buy these, which makes it a cool option for travelers and differentiates Airtel’s offering from others. There is a service portal www.airtelcallhome.com of particular help to non-resident Indians.

Similar to CallHome is Trueroots, another virtual calling card service backed by Tata Communications, formerly VSNL. The service was launched in the US and the UK in September last year and has now been extended to Canada. In this service, you can call India numbers for six cents or Rs 2.76 per minute. However, one needs to have a credit card of one of the three countries where the service is available For those traveling overseas, Tata Communications also offers rechargeable (physical) cards in various denominations. A call from the US to India works out to cost Rs 21.75 per minute on a specific USA-India Gold Card.

The earliest player in the category was Reliance Communications which launched its India Call service for US to India calling in 2004. However, users have to pay a monthly fee of around $ 2 or Rs 80. Also, the call rates are higher as compared to others at 7.9 cents (Rs 3.16 per minute).

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