Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) has announced plans to drastically reduce tariffs on its cdma2000 1x overlay network in Delhi. According to reports from India’s broadsheet The Economic Times, fees for data services on the Garuda network will be lowered by up to 50%, while voice tariffs will be cut by around 15%. Garuda, which allows subscribers to access data at speeds of up to 144kbps, was launched by the telco at the start of this month but has been slow to take off, attracting just 27,000 customers. The company hopes that the discounted prices will encourage customers to upgrade to the high speed network and has been working on amending its package bundles so as to attract the most lucrative corporate customer.
MTNL introduced GSM-based services in February 2001 to the metro areas of Delhi and Mumbai under the brand name Dolphin. At launch its chief rivals in the Delhi metro area were Bharti Cellular and Hutchison Essar, both of whom launched in 1995. In November 2002, however, a third competitor – AT&T Wireless’ Idea Cellular – entered the market and quickly overtook its better established rival, boasting 169,537 customers at the end of May 2003 compared to MTNL’s 131,174. The decision by MTNL to cut prices is being seen as an attempt to lure customers away from rival networks and is expected to herald the start of an aggressive price war between all four operators.