By Armen Zakarian
The ArmenTel telecommunications operator made late on Wednesday an attempt to improve its strained relations with the Armenian government by announcing a decrease in some of its key tariffs.
The announcement was jointly made by the executive director of the Greek-owned monopoly, Nikos Georgoulas, and Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Markarian, one of the company’s most bitter critics. They said ArmenTel will cut the price of external and mobile phone calls as well as the Internet connection with the outside world.
The cost of phone calls to North America and Western Europe will be slashed from $1.92 to $0.99 per minute. In addition, Armenian mobile phone users will see the per-minute charge for their domestic calls decrease from the current $0.18 to $0.15 starting next July and further down to $0.13 by the end of the year.
The joint announcement came against the backdrop of a continuing row between the government and ArmenTel’s parent company, OTE, over the amount of the latter’s investment in Armenia’s telecom sector. The relations further deteriorated on March 22 when the government accused the embattled operator of abusing its legal monopoly on telecom services in Armenia.
The government’s Commission on the Protection of Economic Competition ruled that ArmenTel’s decision obligating customers to buy handsets for prepaid mobile phone cards only from ArmenTel violates the country’s anti-trust legislation. The company was fined 5 million drams ($8,800) and ordered to allow buyers to return their phones.
Georgoulas said ArmenTel will comply with the punitive measure.