why the big difference in international phone card rates

these are the phone cards that you can buy here in the UK that allow you to call different countries much cheaper than standard international rates. But the difference in price is large. Eg £5 will buy you 5000 minutes to talk to Taiwan, but only 20 minutes to say Malawi. Most of the African countries are quite expensive, but asian countries quite cheap. It cant be wages - I suspect state monopolies on phone connections in Africa, but would be interested to know the reason.

DId I read that right? FIVE THOUSAND minutes in Taiwan for FIVE POUNDS?

My WAG about the African rates is that the infrastructure there must be pretty horrible, so you’re subsidizing the building of new lines there by the exorbitant rates. Just a WAG though.

I would go with HeyHomie on that one. I seem to remember a phone operator telling me the same thing.

Phone cards used to be of great interest to me since I lived with my father and my then fiance was in Poland. I was upset that Russia had better phone rates than Poland. But if you think about it, it makes sense. UK gives you some of the best phone rates and I guarantee you it’s not because BT (large English phone co.) is so generous(most folks hate them in UK).

Depending on how advanced their telephone infrastructure is dictates your rate, also I know that in Europe at least, there is not such a free market system. There’s as much as one, maybe two telephone companies per country and not two many options outside of them. That’s why cellular exploded the way it did over there; if not by ground, then through the air- right over those greedy bastards heads, heh.

It’s also possible that some very poor countries subsidize local phone service by very high long distance rates. The US used to do that decades ago.

(The rate is for phone calls from UK to Taiwan (sorry my OP might not have been entirely clear)

The rate actually depends on how you phone. Using a free phone number (0800) the rate is about 100 minutes for £5 to Taiwan. If you use a local rate number (i.e you pay local rates, about 1p/minute or more depending on providers) you get the 5000 minutes for £5. So you have to work out which is cheaper in the long run.

That used to be true until a few years ago, but national and EU legislation did a great deal to liberalize telecommunication markets. In most European countries, there’s now intense competition between several large and quite a number of smaller companies, and in fact rates decreased heavily during the last few years.

I think it’s simply a matter of competition and available bandwidth.
From Australia, these cards can connect you with other English-speaking countries for one or two cents per minute (from NZ next door to the UK on the other side of the planet). European countries, HK, and Japan are not much more expensive. Then again, Indonesia and PNG (our closest neighbours) are expensive. Places like Vietnam or Iran will cost up to 5000% more than the UK, despite being only half as far away.