The service is positioned as a value-add for both business users and consumers--who may sometimes encounter a recorded voice from an answering machine, or dial a wrong number or one that is no longer in use--said StarHub general manager for Voice Services William Tan in a statement today.
"(With the service, customers do not have to) pay a second more for calls they do not want to incur," Tan added.
For instance, an overseas call which lasts 12 seconds will not be charged. However, an 18-second call will be billed for the entire call duration.
Those who are eligible for the service include StarHub fixed-line (including ISDN) and mobile phone users. Customers of other mobile and fixed-line operators, who have registered for IDD 008, will also be able to enjoy the 12 seconds free anytime of the day; but international calling card, pre-paid mobile phone and payphone users are not eligible.
Frost & Sullivan analyst Balaji Bhoovarahan considers the announcement a "good differentiating factor" for StarHub's IDD service from rivals SingTel's IDD 001 and MobileOne's IDD 002.
"(At least,) the 12 seconds serve as an incentive to get those who have never used 008 before to try the service," Balaji said.
However, he remained skeptical about StarHub's success in getting SingTel and MobileOne customers into its fold, or significantly increasing its customer base.
"At the end of the day, how many times do you dial a wrong number? And how many called parties actually have answering machines?" he noted.
Furthermore, an 18-second call will still be fully billed, without the 12-second waiver, Balaji said. "The 12 seconds should be completely free. Then will I see a good shift (of users from rival operators)."
He also noted that the IDD market is "highly segmented" with cheaper services provided by many smaller players such as Phoenix Communications and Zone 1511.
Moreover, the traditional telcos themselves offer second-tier schemes such as SingTel's BudgetCall 013, v019 and eVoiz as well as StarHub's I-Call 018, which many users opt for, Balaji added.