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VAS Offerings: Adding value for operators and customers

February 24, 2011
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With competition intensifying in the wireless space and changing consumer preferences, operators are shifting their attention towards developing innovative services in order to differentiate their offerings.

The requirement for constant innovation stems from the fact that rival operators are replicating most products, almost from the time of their launch itself. For example, handset maker HTC Corporation recently joined hands with TATA DOCOMO to launch the HTC Desire in India. Shortly afterwards, it also collaborated with Reliance Mobile to launch the HTC Wildfire Android handset.

In this scenario, value-added services (VAS) are an important revenue stream. This is evident from the fact that while VAS accounted for 2 per cent of mobile operator revenues in 2002, according to KPMG estimates, its share now stands at 10 per cent. This share is expected to increase to 12-13 per cent during 2011, according to KPMG. With the aim of tapping this opportunity, operators have flooded the market with a range of services.

tele.net takes a look at some of the innovative services launched by major telecom operators in the past few months...

Bharti airtel 

Bharti airtel has tied up with India Post in Karnataka. As part of this collaboration, India Post will collect documents from customers for new or existing prepaid and post-paid connections. The service is available in the 59 head post offices and 1,950 sub-post offices in Karnataka.

The company has also joined hands with Nokia to launch the Ovi Life Tools service. This is targeted at providing Bharti airtel customers access to content on agriculture, education and entertainment. The service is available in several versions, starting with the Rs 10 per pack. The service’s agriculture module includes personalised agro-related information, weather updates, and crop advisory and market prices. The education services module includes a “learn English” facility and exam preparation modules covering state and central boards. The entertainment services module includes downloadable wallpapers, ringtones, games, jokes, news, etc. This service is available in 11 Indian languages on a range of Nokia handsets including entry-level devices.

Vodafone Essar 

Vodafone Essar has launched the Night Radio service for subscribers in Karnataka. The facility enables users to listen to the radio for Rs 2 per day. Subscribers need to dial 55170, after which they are guided through an interactive menu to activate the service. The service is available in English, Kannada, Hindi and Tamil.

RCOM 

Reliance Communications (RCOM) and Nokia India have announced a multi-faceted business alliance. The alliance covers making available Ovi Life Tools services for RCOM customers in rural and semi-urban areas, enabling faster music downloads on Ovi Music Unlimited (OMU) devices, introducing a new offer for Reliance Netconnect broadband customers and special data packages for Nokia GPRS phones. As per the agreement, RCOM will offer Ovi Life Tools services in two versions – subscription and pay-per-use. The subscription for education and entertainment-related services is available for Rs 30 per month and the agriculture-related services for Rs 60 per month. The pay-per-use feature is priced at Rs 3 per request. Also, RCOM’s GSM customers can download music of up to 12 GB from Nokia’s OMU service on OMU devices. Consumers can also purchase a Reliance Netconnect broadband connection and data cards for Rs 1,999 with the purchase of Nokia OMU-enabled devices. Further, RCOM is offering a mobile data bundle of 1.2 GB on Nokia GPRS-enabled handsets and up to 1,800 free on-net minutes bundled with the Nokia 1800. These free voice minutes and mobile data bundles are valid for six months.

The company has also collaborated with Kodiak Networks to launch an SMS-based voice conference call facility. The service will be available to all Reliance Mobile GSM and CDMA subscribers using any handset; it will allow customers to establish a conference call among a group of nine contacts with a single SMS. The service is priced at Rs 40 per month.

Another offering from RCOM’s stable, “Cwicket”, is a multi-lingual voice-based mobile cricket game. In order to subscribe, RCOM users have to call 505101065 and will be charged Rs 15 for 15 days. Once the user’s mobile number has been registered, he can choose from 10 different teams including Kolkata Kite Flyers, Bangalore Techies and Chennai Super Annas. A user can choose to play the game in either English or Hindi. For every game played, 1,000 points are awarded; 400 extra points are awarded for a win and 100 each for every six or wicket. The points can be redeemed to enter virtual tournaments, power plays, real prizes and customised bats and balls.

TTSL 

Tata Teleservices Limited’s (TTSL) GSM brand TATA DOCOMO has launched the “Sparsh” service, which is aimed at using the mobile phone to build awareness about health-related issues. The service is currently available in English, Hindi and Marathi, and will soon be available in Oriya, Bengali, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. TATA DOCOMO customers can access this service by calling 529222, and are charged at Rs 10 for 10 days.

TATA DOCOMO has also launched the English Seekho service. English Seekho is an interactive medium through which users can learn conversational English through their DOCOMO mobile phones. The application guides the user through audio clips that teach spoken English through learning sessions. English Seekho has five different levels, namely the basic, social, professional, advanced and full courses. In all, there are 44 chapters spread across five levels. The application also keeps a log of all the lessons that a user has taken. At the end of each lesson, users are asked to take a short test wherein they have to select the correct answer from multiple choices. Users can select the correct option through their cell phone’s keypad and are guided to the correct answer via suitable voice prompts, ensuring proper learning. At a later stage, users could be asked to speak a particular phrase or sentence from the lesson, which the system will capture and recognise through an internal speech recognition engine. Correct or incorrect answers are played back to the user. To subscribe, users can dial 529221 from their DOCOMO mobile phone. The service is priced at Rs 10 for 15 days and subsequent browsing charges are Re 0.01 per second. This service is available for both prepaid and post-paid subscribers.

TTSL has also announced the Doctor on Call service in partnership with Rx Healthcare Magic. This service provides assistance in medical emergency situations and provides medical consultations. Calls for consultation are charged at Rs 9 per minute. Subscribers can access this service by dialling 54887. Based on an IVR system, medical consultancy is offered by experienced doctors and once the subscriber calls this service, the doctors assess the problem through a clinical procedure.

Uninor 

Uninor has launched the Unlimited Music service in collaboration with Hungama and 30 regional music labels. The service is provided through a music platform, which allows customers to choose from a database of 250,000 songs at a daily charge of Rs 2.50. Caller tunes and ringtones can also be accessed through this pack. Customers have to dial 52222 to access this service. Thereafter, the user can browse through the list of songs and choose music from various genres including Bollywood, international hits, popular music and regional chartbusters.

BSNL 

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), in collaboration with Obopay, has launched the Billpay service in the west zone, which includes Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. As part of this service, all BSNL mobile customers in this region can pay their BSNL bills by using their credit card. To activate the service, mobile customers have to register their credit card and generate an M-pin by sending an SMS to 52828. The M-pin can be used exclusively to pay all their BSNL bills.

Aircel 

Aircel has joined hands with Blyk, a UK-based organisation engaged in providing interactive multimedia mobile messages, to launch the Blyk on Aircel service. This would enable Aircel users to receive content via messages (both SMS and MMS) across categories such as entertainment, sports as well as lifestyle.

Virgin Mobile 

Virgin Mobile has introduced the Music Unlimited service, wherein users can download free and unlimited music tracks, ringtones and caller ringback tones. Customers can choose from various genres of music. To avail of this service, the user has to call 586865. Calls are charged at Re 0.10 per second.

Conclusion 

Clearly, VAS is likely to remain an important part of every operator’s portfolio for several years to come. The key factors driving this will be the widespread launch of 3G, the continuous fall in voice tariffs, greater penetration of feature-rich handsets and spread of vernacular content.

 
 
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