Switzerland’s second-largest telecom operator, Sunrise, has cut its rates for calls with mobile phones.
The move comes after its main competitors announced price reductions in a bid to attract new customers.
Sunrise said it was introducing a flat rate for mobile-phone customers who use so–called prepaid cards. The company will charge 49 centimes for a call and 20 centimes for a text message.
Until now the company has offered its mobile-phone clients 11 different billing systems.
The aim of the Sunrise initiative is to win more than 100,000 customers, mainly those who don’t use mobile phones frequently, senior company officials said on Tuesday.
Last week the country's leading telecoms operator, Swisscom, which is mainly state-owned, and Orange launched their own moves to win new customers.
Ralf Beyeler, telecommunications specialist at independent price watchdog Comparis in Zurich, welcomed the tougher competition among Switzerland’s operators. He said that customers would benefit depending on their telephone habits.
"In particular, people who make long calls can telephone at a much cheaper [rate]. Those who make short calls will profit less [from the price changes]," he told swissinfo.
"For long calls, Swisscom is very attractive, otherwise Orange is attractive for calls which are not too long. And with its new offer, Sunrise is attractive for people who [use their mobiles for] less than 80 minutes a month."
However Beyeler is not sure whether the average customer can keep track of the complex price structures.
"The individual tariffs are more transparent but if you want to make a comparison about what’s on offer, it’s no longer [really] possible because they do their billing using different systems."
He remains sceptical about the impact of the new charges, and says it would have made more sense to introduce cheaper tariffs a long time ago.
"Since 2001 prices have remained stable. There have been new tariff offers but they haven’t really changed... [there has just been] new packaging," said Beyeler.
In 2003 the market penetration of mobile telephones in Switzerland was 84 per cent, according to the Federal Communications Office.
Prices for mobile calls in Switzerland are among the highest in Europe. Users pay roughly double the average rate in Britain and the Scandinavian countries, where calls are cheapest.
There are three mobile operators in Switzerland: Swisscom, Sunrise and Orange.
Tele2 is due to launch its service on a local network in Zurich only.
At the end of 2003, the market penetration of mobile telephones in Switzerland was 84 per cent.
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