The new telemarketing norms that recently came into effect could play spoilsport to unlimited SMS packages that telecom operators have designed for the consumers.
In a bid to stop marketing communication sent via texts, the norms, among others, say that a consumer cannot send more than 100 SMSes per day. The decision has its supporters.
“Obviously, wherever there is an unlimited SMS pack, the product will have to be revised,” says Surya Mahadevan, chief operating officer of Loop Mobile. “But I do not think it will have any major impact. For, the population that sends more than 100 texts a day forms a very small percentage.”
Unlimited SMS plans are offered by almost all telecom operators like Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Tata Docomo and Reliance Communications. These plans are bundled with calls in the form of minutes as well other facilities. Such bundled plans are targeted at subscribers who use SMS as a major form of communication, as many try and segment their consumers as per their usage patterns.
Trai says telecom service providers currently offer SMS packages of as many as 2,000 texts per day. This “can be made use of by unregistered persons for sending commercial communications from ordinary numbers”, the regulator points out in a note.
This new rule, some experts say, may have a psychological effect on consumers who are into heavy texting. Baburajan K, chief editor, Telecomlead, says setting limits will make subscribers apprehensive of their lavish SMS habits.
Telecom companies say they have been targeting a reduction of the value-added services revenue, while it is of no great significance that it would impact them. On an average, value-added services contribute to only around 10 per cent of their total revenue, with a major chunk coming from calls. Of that, around six per cent comes from SMSes.
“What will get cut down is the bulk SMS,” notes Jaideep Ghosh, partner with KPMG. “But they are anyway being offered at a very low price. So, there will be no major impact.” A number of telecom operators are now looking at increasing the contribution of VAS revenue. But, operators say a growth in messaging volumes will not come from merely pushing a large number of SMSs on a targeted population.
“Growth in texting,” says the managing director of a top telecom operator, “will come by bringing more number of people, who are now majorly communicating via calls only, into the SMS net.”
Telecom operators, which are trying to push their growth VAS revenues, are now eyeing growth in data services. True, SMS rates too have been reduced. But data services had not been affected when call tariffs fell due to competition in 2009. Data services is where margins for telecom operators are still high. As of now, that has been the focus area for telecom majors.
“Telecom players,” KPMG’s Ghosh says, “are pushing data usage now. Those who offer 3G services are now concentrating on pushing 3G.”