View from City Road: One too many from One-2-One

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The Independent Online
The latest mobile call charges from Mercury One-2-One will not fool seasoned observers of the industry. But they may add to widespread confusion among subscribers as they scratch their heads over where to get the best deal.

One-2-One is claiming a breakthrough by offering to undercut BT's fixed-wire services by up to 25 per cent for some business calls. But the high standing charge means that only heavy users would benefit. In any case, most operators admit that with the plethora of price packages and discounts on offer, it is almost impossible to make fair comparisons.

One-2-One is doing well enough for a company that is only a year old. It had 100,000 customers within 10 months and claims to have a 12 per cent share of the mobile market in the areas in which it operates, mainly London and the South-east. Free off- peak local calls have proved hugely popular, no doubt at a cost to the company, which refuses to say how much it earns from each customer or how many use the service largely for the free calls.

No one would dispute the fact that One-2-One raised consumer awareness of mobile telephony. But it does the company no good to give the impression that it is greatly undercutting the fixed networks.

Even leaving aside the confusion over price packages - most telephone companies can be accused of adding to it - the quality of mobile services is still not as good as fixed telephony. That is the real limit on the market.