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India to end monopoly on long-distance domestic telephone carrier

NEW DELHI, India — India will open its long-distance domestic telephone market to private operators, ending the five-decade government monopoly.

Communications Minister Ram Vilas Paswan announced Sunday that international telephone service would probably be privatized by 2004.

The privatization is expected to lower domestic long-distance call rates by up to 50 percent, The Hindustan Times newspaper said.

The government earns 120 billion rupees ($2.6 billion) a year from long-distance service within India.

Private companies would be required to pay 1 billion rupees ($22 million) to enter the market and share 15 percent of its revenue with the government, Paswan told reporters on Sunday. Service providers can have up to 49 percent foreign ownership, Paswan told reporters.

The government plans to sell shares worth 100 billion rupees ($2.3 billion) in state-owned companies this year in the local share market and through global depository receipts.

The sales will include stakes in blue chip companies such as long-distance telecommunications carrier Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. and domestic telephone company Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd.



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