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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Beeline follows 'Boom' with zero-cents tariff

Beeline follows 'Boom' with zero-cents tariff

090907_07
Beeline credit top-up cards are displayed on sale at a mobile phone store in Phnom Penh.

Following months of price-dumping allegations led by Mobitel, Russian-owned operator launches more aggressive price plan

MOBILE operator Beeline has launched an aggressive new pricing plan from today in which customers will only be charged for the first minute of any calls they make of up to 15 minutes' duration within the Beeline network.

Under the "Super Zero" plan, the per-minute charge will kick in again after 15 minutes, while calls across networks will be charged at US$0.06 per minute, compared with $0.05 per minute at all times on all networks on the controversial "Boom" plan, Beeline Commercial Director Benoin Janin told a press conference Friday.

SIM cards will be available for just $0.50 under a promotion running until December 31, though the Super Zero tariff will continue for already-qualified users indefinitely, or until the company changes its pricing policy.

The new pricing policy had been planned as part of the company's expansion strategy - Beeline will extend coverage to eight new provinces this month - General Director Gael Campan told the Post last week, but it comes amid an ongoing feud with market leader Cellcard Mobitel over pricing and connectivity across networks.

Campan said Friday that the new pricing structure was "more aggressive" than the Boom plan at the heart of the Mobitel dispute. Under the Boom plan, calls within and across networks were charged at $0.05 per minute, below the $0.0595 cost that industry officials say networks incur for one-minute domestic calls to other networks.

Mobitel and other operators say the Boom policy amounted to price dumping, and Beeline has in turn accused Mobitel of blocking calls from its service to Mobitel subscribers.

Mark Hanna, chief financial controller of Royal Group, which has a stake in Mobitel, told the Post last week that technicians were still working to connect Beeline to Mobitel, but added that it was unlikely to finish the job while the pricing dispute continued.

Campan said Friday he hoped to resolve the dispute, but added that the connectivity issue would not help Mobitel in the long run.

"It is a very fragmented market right now, and nobody has the majority of subscribers," he said.

"Mobitel is not the biggest part of the market; the majority of subscribers are with the other operators. We want to work with them as much as possible, and if Mobitel does not want to give their subscribers access to Beeline customers, it's their problem, not ours."

Beeline announced last week that Takeo, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Kompong Thom, Banteay Meanchey, Pursat, Kampot and Prey Veng provinces would be connected to its network one by one between September 2 and September 24.

Campan said the expansion of coverage to 18 provinces, which together account for 64 percent of the country's population, combined with the new pricing policy would remove any more "excuses" people might have for not joining Beeline. "We are adding benefits for customers by reducing the within-network tariff and encouraging them to bring more of their families to join us," he said.

Cambodia Technical Director Rodrigo Araujo said the company was sharing towers with other operators, which he said was "a completely new approach for Cambodia".

The network equipment, provided by Huawei of China, contains batteries to keep services running even in the event of electricity outages.
Beeline is owned by Sotelco, the local subsidiary of Russian telco Vimpelcom Group.

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