By Ruben Meloyan
Armenians pay more for fixed-line phone services than residents of not only neighboring countries but the United States, according to new research presented in Yerevan on Thursday.
A study conducted by the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) found that an Armenian phone subscriber pays an average of $38.4 per month, compared with $23 paid by a typical phone user in the U.S. The monthly phone bills in Georgia and Azerbaijan average $25 and $19 respectively, according to it.
“Phone expenditures in Armenia make up an average 19.5 percent of the average monthly wage,” said Ashot Turajian, the main author of the study. Americans, by contrast, spend less than one percent of their monthly income on fixed-line phone calls, he said.
In Turajian’s words, the ratio is higher in Georgia, at 22 percent, only because the official monthly wage there is considerably lower than in Armenia. He put the same figure for Azerbaijan at 9 percent.
The ACNIS study noted that the ArmenTel national telecommunication company’s fixed monthly fees covering six hours of domestic phone calls and per-minute charges levied from subscribers exceeding that limit are both higher than similar tariffs set by U.S. fixed-line operators. It said that unlike ArmenTel, the latter do not differentiate between individual and corporate phone users. Armenian legal entities have to pay more for the service than private individuals.
The cost of the service would have been even higher if the Armenian government and state regulators had agreed to all tariff increase sought by ArmenTel’s current and previous owners. The Russian-owned company’s most recent attempt to raise its fees was blocked by the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) this summer.
The ArmenTel management agreed this month to keep the tariffs unchanged until next April but indicated that it expects the regulatory body to allow it to raise them later in 2008.