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May 20, 2002 | 1205 IST
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Mobile firms bank on info-services for growth

BS Corporate Bureau

Cricket, astrology, general information and movies are the four info-services or value-added systems which mobile service providers are focusing on to shore up average revenue per.

Though the above services are based on SMS platform, the trend for information on mobile is increasing which would translate in higher revenue base for the mobile service providers.

In a decreasing ARPU market, service providers are focusing on these info-services. Analysts forecast a dramatic decline in the ARPUs in two years following competition in the market. In the next one year, Bharti Tele Ventures and Reliance Infocom expected to commence operations which will trigger fiercest competition in the market. Bharti is expected to roll out mobile services in 15 circles and Reliance will offer basic services in 18 circles.

Of the 22 circles in the country, 17 will see new private operators. The providers that will enter as the fourth operator will also increase competition. Bharti (in eight circles), Escotel (four circles), Hutchinson (with three circles) and Reliance and Batata-BPL in one each are the fourth operators in some circles.

ARPU is highest for information on cricket, astrology, general news and movie- in a descending order, say analysts. Other info-services are also being tapped by service providers.

"There are interesting fleet of services including community chat. This chat used through SMS platform is used by like-minded people. The traffic is high during commuting/travelling hours", says Kumal Ramteke, marketing controller of BPL Mobile.

Commenting on the future trends in VAS, Atul Jhamb chief operating office, Bharti Cellular, Mumbai said "adding the transactional element to information while being mobile is becoming important. for example not just providing information on the stocks opted by him, but also giving him a platform to do transaction simultaneously".

Mobile cellular operators had initially introduced value-added systems more like utility services. These services took the form of STD/ISD/roaming, call forwarding, divert or barring an incoming call. The scenario later moved on post 1997-98, when VAS took the form of voicemail, fax mail, voice info services, STD/ISD lock and call hunting.

However, the concept of utility services moved ahead and post -2000, it took the form of entertainment services such as mobile games, sports among others. Even SMS person-to-person and that based on info services, integrating with web and services such as ring-tone, downloads, internet mobile, GPRS and interactive services, dominated the VAS.

These VAS are expected to increase the revenue base for mobile service operators since cell phones have now become more than a device of communication.

Analysts indicate that over the next five years, mobile telephony is expected to forecast a cumulative average growth rate of 14.5 per cent.

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