Bharti Airtel raises voice call prices, telecom stocks rise
New Delhi: Bharti Airtel, India's top mobile phone carrier, said it has raised voice call prices to account for rising costs, sending telecommunications shares higher as investors bet that rivals will follow the market leader.
Voice calls account for about 85 percent of the sector's revenues, with mobile data still at a nascent stage. But call rates in India are some of the lowest in the world, often less than 1 cent per minute, squeezing profits at operators. India's mobile phone market, the world's biggest by customers after China, has not seen a sustained increase in call prices in the last three years after a vicious price war sent call rates tumbling in late 2009.
"We have been reiterating that increase in prices is inevitable, which is reflected from the fact that despite rising costs, tariffs have been falling over the past 12 quarters," Bharti Airtel said in a statement. "This revision in prices is in line with these increasing costs," it said, but gave no details of the increase.
A source familiar with the matter separately told Reuters that Bharti Airtel is reducing free minutes by up to a quarter and has increased prices of some call vouchers for prepaid customers by 5-15 rupees (10 to 30 cents).