Macquarie to offer cheaper local calls

Macquarie Corporate Telecommunications has jumped on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) bandwagon for cheaper local calls, with the announcement yesterday it will offer a 20 cent capped local call and a 10 cent rate for calls that run for less than 45 seconds.

The announcement comes in response to the ACCC's draft decision on Monday to declare local calls.

According to David Tudehope, chief executive of Macquarie Corporate, the telecommunications company was one of the first organisations to fight for deregulation of the local call market back in March 1997.

Tudehope said although the ACCC draft ruling is the "most significant decision" since deregulation of the telecommunications sector, an effective decision may not result until the year 2000 if Telstra takes the issue to artbitration.

"The ACCC's draft ruling is now open to response from the industry. Assuming declaration goes ahead in February, negotiations between competitors and Telstra on issues such as pricing will take some time, and if it goes to arbitration, consumers may wait years for an outcome," Tudehope said.

"That said, the ACCC's move must be welcomed. We have worked for more than two years to achieve declaration of local calls - our submission in early '97 started the ball rolling.

"Until now, there has been no incentive for Telstra to negotiate with its competitors. Now, if we cannot achieve fair, cost-justified access to the local call market by dealing direct with Telstra, we have the backing of the ACCC," he said.

According to Tudehope, if a fair wholesale price on local calls is achieved, consumers can expect to see a range of services including untimed calls, timed calls with price caps and off-peak, weekend calls and pre-paid and bulk purchasing products from Macquarie Corporate.

Tudehope estimates that Macquarie Corporate will be able to offer local calls at around one-third less than the current unit rate, saving close to $1.65 billion in the local call market valued at $5 billion.

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