War focus switches to long-distance rates

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 June, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 June, 1999, 12:00am

The focus of price wars in the mobile-phone sector's battleground has apparently shifted from airtime charges to long-distance call rates.

City Telecom - which is not a mobile operator - earlier this year offered promotional low-cost IDD services for mobile-phone users.

Other operators have followed suit, including SmarTone Communications, which launched fixed-line IDD call services at cut-throat prices, with the best rates reserved for its mobile subscribers.

Hutchison Telecom and Hongkong Telecom recently joined the fray, with Hutchison offering rates as low as 38 cents per minute for calls to North America, Britain and Australia placed between 1am and 7am.

Telecom has launched off-peak mobile IDD rates to those countries at $1 per minute and also has reduced roaming charges for subscribers who call Hong Kong from overseas.

According to Government statistics, 77,500 people had ported their mobile phone numbers last month, up slightly from 76,980 in April.

However, the number falls far short of the 98,155 who switched operators in the March, the month that mobile number portability was launched.

Operators generally believe that the big rush to port phone numbers has passed. Evidence of this can be seen in a handful of shuttered or converted shops near Times Square that only a few months ago housed storefronts for mobile-phone operators.