Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
Pre-paids soon from Tata Indicom
NEW DELHI, May 27
TAKING on the competition from cellular operators, Tata TeleServices Ltd, the telecom arm of the Tata group proposes to introduce pre-paid services for attracting customers to its limited mobility brand - - Tata Indicom.
Currently, while 60 per cent of the cellular subscribers avail of pre-paid services where they can keep a check on their mobile bills, all the limited mobility operators- TTSL, Reliance Infocomm, BSNL and MTNL- have confined themselves to offering only post-paid services. In fact, part of the reason for the spectacular growth of the cellular subscriber base has been the pre-paid services which enable a customer to stay connected without paying the monthly rentals and security deposits
According to Mr Rajiv Burman, Chief Operating Officer, TTSL (Delhi), although no firm date has been fixed for this mode of service, the company is contemplating a launch soon. This would enable the company to consolidate its market share by attracting customers who have fixed budgets for their mobiles.
He also noted that the company was looking at the feasibility of introducing SIM card-based CDMA phones as was being offered in China. This would not tie the subscriber down to any particular handset that the company is offering.
While the GSM cellular services are SIM-based, the CDMA limited mobility services being offered at present are not SIM-based. The customer information is "burnt" into the handset and therefore has to be bundled with the service unlike GSM, where the SIM card can be fitted into any handset of his choice. This has been one of the stumbling blocks for WLL operators in attracting the adequate number of customers.
Mr Burman noted that the "testing phase" of Tata Indicom was over and the company would now go all out to woo customers aggressively.
As part of the gameplan, it will be offering SMS services shortly followed by enhanced and multi-media messaging before the fiscal year ends.
"We had sought clarification from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for the Andhra Pradesh circle sometime ago. TTSL believes it is permissible and will offer it shortly to the customers. In the next one or two months once technical testing is complete this will be available nationally. TTSL offers a range of handsets of Nokia, Kyocera, LG, Motorola and Eurotel. These handsets will enable the company to launch enhanced messaging services such as ringtones, picture downloads, screen savers and emoticons in the next quarter of the fiscal. This will be followed by the launch of multi-media messaging (MMS) services", he said.
He was confident that it would not be difficult to attract customers since Tata Indicom offered "the most cost-effective plans".
From a customer perspective, the best tariff plan has to be computed based on the monthly bill that he pays on the plan vis-a-vis the usage. The monthly bill is a factor of rental, plan fee, minutes of usage and value-added services charge.
Although the rate per minute might be the lowest in other tariff plans, the monthly bill of the customer will turn out to be higher. This is because while all the others have a 60-second pulse, TTSL has a 15-second pulse. The various tariff plans being offered by Tata Indicom result in a saving of between 30 to 50 per cent over competition, he said.
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