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Carriers Lobby for Asian Price Breaks

AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T), MCI Inc. (Nasdaq: MCIP), BT Group plc (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA), and several other global telecom carriers have formed an industry coalition to lobby for more open policies in the Asian telecom markets.

The group, called the Asia Pacific Carriers Coalition (APCC), said in a statement released Tuesday that one of its top priorities is to push regional governments and incumbent carriers for lower prices for local leased circuits.

Other carrier concerns include lowering rates charged for the termination of mobile calls and increasing the availability of DSL in Asian markets. The coalition will focus on these issues in developing markets such as China and India, as well as more mature telecommunications markets such as Singapore and Japan.

The group says that Asian telecom companies are able to dominate the markets by charging excessive fees for such services as so-called last-mile data connections and completing calls to mobile phones. It wants these fees lowered to help create more opportunities for other operators to enter developing countries such as India and China.

The APCC says it is pushing for lower fees for local leased circuits because many of its members sell data networks to businesses. It says the fees charged for local leased circuits are higher in Asia than in the U.S. and in most countries in Europe.

Even worse, rates to terminate calls on a mobile network are often higher than on a fixed network in the same market. While rates for terminating calls on fixed networks have declined in Asia, the group says, mobile rates have either stayed the same or increased.

But, though the APCC is going forth as a united group, there's no guarantee of success. Many incumbent carriers in Asia are backed in part by their government, and may be averse to charging potential competitors less for leased connections.

Still, the APCC is gaining some significant interest. Joe Welch, MCI’s regional director of regulatory affairs for Asia, says there are ten companies in the coalition so far. They include Cable & Wireless plc (NYSE: CWP) and T-Systems Inc., a unit of Germany’s Deutsche Telekom. Members of the coalition plan to work with ministry officials and will meet alternately in locations between Singapore and Hong Kong.

— Joanna Sabatini, Reporter, Light Reading

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