The government’s decision to ban bulk SMS and MMS services for 15 days, to check spread of rumours that has led to exodus of north-eastern people from certain parts of the country, has made telecom operators and bulk messaging service providers jittery, as they fear this may cause revenue losses to the tune of 30 per cent.
The department of telecommunications (DoT) has already sent out directives to telecom operators asking them to ban such services with immediate effect.
Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said, “All the members will definitely abide by the rules, as national security and human lives are at stake. But a 15-day ban on such services would definitely reduce the revenue stream of operators.”
According to Mathews, operators on an average get 15-18 per cent revenue from SMS services. A ban of 15 days means they will lose around seven-eight per cent of revenue this month from this service alone.
According to a bulk mobile messaging service provider firm, revenue losses for such companies could be as high as 30-40 per cent.
According to Subho Ray, president of Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), “The government should come out with a law that has clarity. Issuing a ban like this is archaic and not uniform, considering the fact that SMS is a vital mode of communications in today’s world. We have appealed to DoT to give more clarity to the notifications, and allow emergency and vital texts messaging services such as those being sent by the railways, airlines and banks, etc.”
No one will be able to send more than five SMSes in one go and more than 20 KB of data through mobile phones during the ban period.
A DoT official, however, said the operators would be asked to allow emergency services from banks, railways and airlines. But, there is no clarity on whether other emergency services could be allowed. “For example, schools use bulk SMS services to connect with students and parents,” said Vishwadeep Bajaj, founder, ValueFirst.
“We are taken aback by the government’s directive. SMS is a powerful medium. Various institutes use this service for providing important, critical as well as emergency services. Moreover, instead of banning this medium, the government should use it to spread correct information,” he added.
The ban came into force after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said the spread of rumours by miscreants had created panic among people belonging to the northeast leading to their exodus from places like Bangalore and Pune among other areas.
Earlier, some political parties urged the government to shut down social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc, for a few days to prevent the spread of rumours.
This is not the first time the government has banned such services. During Independence Day, bulk SMS service was not allowed in Jammu and Kashmir. Also, after the Ayodha verdict, bulk the service was banned for a certain time period. The licence agreement of telecom operators have conditions under which in the interest of national security the government can ask operators to ban certain services.