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Mobile users never had it so good
Priyanka Joshi | January 04, 2006
Picture this: India has 55 million or 5.50 crore mobile phone users (source: TRAI) and hypothetically speaking, if all these users sent text or picture messages to even a minimum of five people on New Year's eve, it built a base of nearly 275 million or 27.50 crore SMSes.
Going by these figures, the start of 2006 certainly brought a lot of cheer to service and content providers who had millions of text messages zapping back and forth over their networks.
The sheer number of these text messages, MMSes followed by content downloads raked in big moolah for players like Airtel, Hutch and Reliance Infocomm.
The Reliance network, for instance, claims to have delivered almost 45 million messages on New Year's day, the highest number recorded on Reliance Infocomm's network till date since the time it was launched three years ago.
Confirms S P Shukla, president (wireless), Reliance Infocomm, "The SMS traffic was at an all-time high at over 30 million."
For Airtel, services like live astrology, wallpaper downloads and contests led to an increase of around 10 per cent in revenues during the holiday season building upto New Year's eve. Says, K Srinivas, CEO, Airtel, "The SMSes increased by four times on December 31, 2005."
Looking at the encouraging response, service and content providers are increasingly cashing in on the trend of tapping the mass market by giving them a slew of value-added services.
This time, for instance, Reliance Infocomm has come out with a unique SMS top-up card priced at Rs 180 that will allow subscribers to send 18,000 messages over a period of six months.
"This works out at barely one paisa per SMS, the lowest-ever cost, and it is becoming immensely popular among our youth segment of subscribers that constitutes about 20 per cent of our subscriber strength," Shukla explains.
Anticipating a rise in the number of messages, Airtel too was quick to commission a new mobile switching centre in the National Capital Region.
Content providers claim that downloading music, games, pictures, text messages, wallpapers and screensavers is a leisure activity for a majority of subscribers.
"Mobile phone users are no longer discouraged by costs per download," says Arun Gupta, COO of Mauj Telecom. "Our value-added services," he says, "start from Rs 5 for a picture message to Rs 50 for a mobile game. This is clearly not a deterrent as people, along with their fancy mobiles, also like to boast of the content that they can carry."
According to him, "The market for value-added services is currently about Rs 380 crore (Rs 3.8 billion), and it can scale to around Rs 3,500 crore (Rs 35 billion) by 2010."
Another industry analyst claims that popular reality shows on television are also helping in driving revenues for service providers. Besides, with an increasing number of people opting for smartphones (GPRS enabled with MS Office) the services provided by content providers is also increasing.
As a result, besides wallpapers, downloading of music, cartoons, videos and games also seem to be on a steady rise. "It also facilitates employment," smiles Gupta, clearly in a cheerful mood after getting such a whopping response to his value-added services.
But that, of course, is another story.