IDD calls to the mainland from Hong Kong dived nearly 23 per cent after China Telecom imposed a sharp rise in interconnection fees last November. The outgoing call figure of 144.57 million minutes in November was a nine-month low, according to the Office of the Telecommunications Authority - down 22.8 per cent from October and 5.88 per cent year on year. Mainland fixed-line giant China Telecom imposed a 17 US cents interconnection fee - a 7.75-fold increase - on Hong Kong's international direct dial operators in November on just one-week's notice. Most operators passed on incremental rises to consumers effective November 1, but reverted to their former prices after a more favourable arrangement was reached. However, tariff uncertainty discouraged users in the first week of November. Operators believe the effects did not last long. 'It was soon over,' said Ricky Wong Wai-kay, the chairman of City Telecom, Hong Kong's No 2 IDD operator. 'We were already seeing a gradual rebound in December.' Low-price IDD carriers such as Wharf T&T gained ground. 'Our traffic has doubled in the past two months, with residential traffic going up by a high single digit,' said Tony Cheung Tung-lan, vice-president of the Wharf telecom unit. New World Telecom said its IDD traffic fell 20 per cent in November, but rebounded 15 per cent last month. 'We project a 12 to 15 per cent growth in mainland IDD traffic this year,' said marketing director Thomas Leung. The mainland fee increase raised concerns over China's regulatory regime. Premier Zhu Rongji said during a visit to Hong Kong in November that China's Ministry of Information Industry was reckless to approve the sudden increase. China accounts for about half the outgoing call traffic in Hong Kong. In November, 442.4 million minutes of incoming and outgoing traffic were recorded, down about 8 per cent from October.