By Armen Zakarian
Armenia’s Greek-owned telecommunications monopoly, ArmenTel, will press ahead on Saturday with a new payment scheme involving a substantial rise in phone tariffs, ignoring strong government objections. A company spokeswoman told RFE/RL on Friday that the ArmenTel board has decided to keep unchanged its earlier decision to introduce payment for every minute of domestic phone calls for phone and Internet users.
The Armenian minister for transport and telecommunications, Andranik Manukian, said earlier this week that ArmenTel’s parent company, the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), is likely to heed the government’s demands and postpone the measure. An ad hoc commission of the Armenian parliament investigating alleged abuses in the telecom sector has also urged the company not to raise the charges.
Internet providers in Armenia have warned that the per-minute system could a spell a disaster for them as many of their customers would be unable to afford their services.
But the ArmenTel management argues that the fee rise is needed for shoring up its falling revenues. Beginning on Saturday the company will charge four drams (about 2 US cents) for every minute of local phone conversations beyond a two-hour limit covered by a fixed monthly fee of 900 drams. The tariff will be gradually increased to eight drams.
The new system will be applicable only to those users whose phones are connected to digital stations. Less than half of the phone stations in Armenia have been digitalized.