Call rates are the subject of much analysis, and erudite comparisons by consultants, but rarely do they factor in other quantitative aspects such as minimum call charge, call connection charges, and monthly subscriptions, and perhaps more excusably, qualitative aspects such as quality, and customer service.

The principle error in such analyses is that, unlike gas and electricity, a telephone minute is not a commodity. It actually has few of the properties that would qualify it as a commodity. Most obviously, the line quality and the rate of successful call connection vary from the 'indistinguishable from BT' to the downright useless. This vast quality range is inhabited by many carriers.

Quality is mainly to do with the compression rates. Obviously if you can cram more calls simultaneously down the same wire, you can drop your rates. Many different carriers are often involved in the chain that delivers a call to a foreign destination. It only takes one carrier in the chain to compress their call traffic beyond the recognised limits, and you will be unable to send a fax or maybe be entirely unable to connect. M-Line believes business customers have no time for that type of cost saving, and we only deal with high quality carriers.

Consideration of the quantitative issues listed above is a highly technical issue, and therefore a highly successful method of obfuscating true call rates. The sheer impenetrability of the subject is apparently of great appeal to many service providers, and the customer really should ask himself why. M-Line has attempted to analyse the effect of this in the accompanying leaflets, 'Tricks That They Play', and 'The Minimum Call Charge Trick'.

M-Line's minimum call charge is the minimum unit of currency. We always attempt to discuss and agree tariffs with customers in terms of 'true' rates, that is those corrected for distortions due to minimum call charge. This is ultimately the only reliable benchmark. If, however, a customer prefers one of the minimum call charge schemes utilised by our competitors, our billing system can bill them on a basis that emulates that, and we can agree rates appropriate to that regime.