20:48 23rd Jan, 2013
Talk Isn't Cheap: Airtel and Idea Hike Call Tariffs, Vodafone May Follow Suit
The price increases come as mobile network operators try to meet rising costs, and as a pre-emptive move to improve financials before a major auction for airwaves in March 2013.
Bharti Airtel, India's top mobile network operator, has increased voice call prices to meet rising costs, boosting its share price and prompting rival Vodafone to consider following suit. The market of nearly 900 million customers, the world's biggest after China, has not seen a sustained increase in call charges for three years after a price war sent rates tumbling in 2009.
Idea Cellular, India's No.4 operator by customers, said on Wednesday that it had effectively raised prices for voice calls in some parts of the country after withdrawing promotional offers.
Vodafone's Indian unit, the country's second-biggest mobile carrier, said it was inclined to follow price moves by its competitors but had not decided on precise steps.
The price increases come as mobile network operators in India face billions of dollars in airwave surcharges after the government overhauled its system for the sale of airwave spectrum. The shake-up was in response to a scandal that broke in 2011 over an alleged below-market-price sale of permits and airwaves three years before.
The government will sell airwaves through open bidding in March, four months after the first such auction, with the minimum bid price at both auctions more than six times the previous fees set by the government.
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