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Phone Card Selector :: Call Wales For Less Than Woronora By Andrew Stevenson
Call Wales For Less Than Woronora By Andrew Stevenson

The Sydney Morning Gerald

Call Wales For Less Than Woronora – October 5, 2003

By Andrew Stevenson

PREPAID international calling cards, an expanding niche in the competitive telecommunications market, are dramatically undercutting standard call charges.

Even Telstra's own calling cards offer discounts of as much as 85 per cent on its standard home call charges to destinations such as the UK.

In a market now worth more than $150 million a year, prepaid phone cards are bought from retail outlets, including convenience stores. When you make a call from your home phone you first call the card provider, then enter your code number and finally make your international call.

For that extra effort you can call overseas for as little as 2 cents a minute on standard quality connections provided by major companies such as Optus, WorldCom and AAPT.

And calls to mobiles in China, for which Telstra's standard charge rate is $1.21 a minute, cost as little as 1.9 cents a minute.

About 70 different cards, with prices varying between different countries, are on the market, although Telstra and Telecorp, a non-listed company, dominate the market.

There are now internet websites offering selector packages to find the cheapest card for your calls.

``The biggest problem we have is actually telling people about the product," Kenneth Ting, founder of one site, Phone Card Selector, said. ``Once you tell them, it's a no-brainer."

But the market is cutthroat. ``Companies come and go because it's a very competitive marketplace," Mr Ting said. ``In the past year, four companies have gone under."

Therein lies the rub for consumers who have forked out $10, $20 or $50 for a suddenly worthless card.

Telecorp chief executive Steve Picton said the market would continue to operate, even though it may threaten the high margins of Telstra and Optus.

``No one carrier can stop because someone else would sell you the time," he said.

Rates to Australian mobiles are among the most expensive calls offered by the prepaid cards.

``Calls to mobiles in Australia are extraordinarily expensive and we have to charge that because that's what we're charged," Mr Picton said. ``It costs us 10 times as much to connect a call to an Australian mobile as it does for me to ring my mother in Wales."

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