Business Standard has an article on Netcore’s MyToday SMS service.

MyToday offers 20+ SMS channels on various topics like News, Sensex, Cricket, Jokes, Horoscope and Bollywood free-of-cost to subscribers.

MyToday SMS

A user needs to subscribe to the service by sending an SMS to a pre-designated number (9845398453) with the text START followed by the name of service (Like NEWS or JOKES).

Abhijit Saxena, CEO, Netcore Solutions:

“The mobile phone is a true convergence device which would shortly replace the TV and the computer and text messaging is the most potent medium to reach large addressable audience in the shortest span of time,

SMS

Joji Thomas Philip writes in ET that data compiled by TRAI reveal that SMS use has steadily fallen from September 2006.

  • GSM operators have witnessed close to 9% drop in the outgoing SMSs during the Apr-Jun ’07 quarter.
  • An average GSM user now sends about 35 SMSs per month as compared to 39 during the previous quarter.
  • GSM operators’ total revenue from SMS has now fallen below the 5% mark.
  • During the Jan-Mar ’07 quarter, GSM operators saw a 19% decline in outgoing text messages.
  • Outgoing SMS per subscriber (for GSM) declined by 18.75% from 48 in Dec ’06 to 39 in Mar ’07.
  • CDMA customers sent 20 sms during the quarter-ended June against 24 SMSs during the Jan-Mar ’07 quarter.

Reasons attributed to the decline in usage and revenue are:

Upward revision in SMS tariffs by several GSM service providers. And rationalization of tariff plans, where many operators discontinued non-profitable SMS packages.

During the quarter, there have been tariff reports indicating reduction in the number of free and discounted SMS under various packs and plans, increase in the rate for SMS, restriction on the usage of free/discounted SMS on festival/customary days.

Steady increase in the minutes of usage. The average SMS usage is bound to fall as operators went rural because customers in non-urban areas are comparably less text savvy.

For GSM players, the average increase in outgoing minutes of usage (MOU) was 2.2% during the last quarter.

This may be good news for the VAS industry. Despite the dip in SMS usage, the overall VAS revenues is increasing every quarter.

SMS is no longer the single driving force behind VAS revenues

SMS

Rediff reports that the two finalists of Indian Idol 3 drew a combined tally of 7 crore SMS votes between September 14, when the lines were opened for voting, and September 23, when the voting ended.

If we take the sms cost of each vote at Rs 3, the revenue generated via SMS during the nine days of voting would be around Rs 21 crore.

  • 77 lakh votes per day
  • 3.2 lakh sms per hour
  • 5400 sms per minute
  • 90 sms per second

Krishna Durbha, Head – Revenue and Marketing, Reliance Communications says:

“These programs are essentially about immediacy, People believe they are endorsing their stars; they also believe they have a voice in the outcome and that their opinion matters, and so they send SMSes favour of their favourites.”

The numbers are just mind boggling. Someone needs to do a study of the Indian Idol, Vote4Taj and other reality shows phenomenon in India.

If sms voting was allowed in Indian Goverment elections, we would have more than the average 50% voting and perhaps better elected representatives. But thats not possible.

I think there is an opportunity to start a not-for-profit democratic People’s Forum which allows online and mobile participation. The issues, voting and opinion can be aggregated on a independent platform (and yet emergent), making it a credible source. Media can then genuinely issue calls to activism on issues of importance. It will help in riddance of vote fragmentation and accusations of emotional manipulation towards earning revenues via SMS; also making the activism of some consequence.

Voice of India?

SMS

Here’s wishing all readers of Mobile Pundit a Happy 2007!

Would like to take this opportunity to announce the launch of “Free SMS Greetings” service from MyToday.com.

Q. Free? So whats the cost catch.
A. No cost. Swear on Santa.

MyToday SMS Greetings allows you to send free greetings via SMS to any mobile in India. You can type 110 characters worth of message while remaining 50 characters are used for MyToday ads.

Visit www.MyToday.com from either your phone’s or computer’s browser. Please check the cost of GPRS data with your operator, if you are using the on-phone browser.

MyToday

SMS

FremantleMedia, the owner of the Idols reality show, has chosen Mobile2win over other Asian competitors for powering the Philippine Idol.

Mobile2win will handle the entire connectivity with all operators, back-end infrastructure, voting, collation and vote management for the 14 weeks of the show.

Mobile2win had worked previously with FremantleMedia on Indian Idol, the Indian version of the Idols show. Indian Idol got more than 55 million votes via SMS between Nov ’04 to Mar ’05. At Rs 3 per SMS, that is Rs 16.5 crore (Rs 165 million).

Jon Penn, FremantleMedia’s VP, Licensing and Interactive, Asia Pacific said,

“We chose mobile2win as they have done a fantastic job over several years for the voting and interactivity on Indian Idol. Their approach is systematic and professional and we know they will do a great job for us in the Philippines, one of the most

SMS

Oxford Bookstore has launched a SMS service for book lovers to check for new releases and bestsellers. The technology for this short-code based “pull” service is provided by Mobile 365.

Its basically an on-demand shortcode service where the user sends a SMS with a keyword to 6365 and gets back a reply with the asked-for info.

E.g. Sending “OBSNNF” to 6365 gets you the latest 3 business, new age and non-fiction books.

Rajiv Chowdhry, CEO, Apeejay Oxford Bookstores:

Our focus in initiating this mobile relationship is to understand and value consumer preference when it comes to reading and buying books. In future, we look forward to building a strong mobile community of booklovers through this non-intrusive, quick and well-focussed information distribution channel.

One keyword that is missing and which I would like as a user, is to send the ISBN number or book name and get back some details like the author, its Oxford sales rank (denoting its popularity) and the availability of that book at Oxford.

SMS

TRAI had sought comments from Telcos on imposing Interconnect Usage Charge on SMS.

All operators, except Bharti, have opposed the IUC regime. They have argued that the existng system is working well.

“We believe that the regulator should forbear in the matter of IUC charges for SMS and leave it to the service providers for mutual arrangements for mutual charges for exchange of SMS, if they so desire,

SMS

In a consultation paper on regulating SMS, telecom regulator TRAI has proposed a interconnect usage charges (IUC) on SMS. But it acknowledged that there is an apprehension that IUC could increase SMS tariffs and has therefore sought opinion of all the stakeholders by June 30.

What is an Interconnect Usage Charge?

Interconnect charges are paid by one operator to another for terminating calls from the originating operator network to the destination / terminating operator network.

So if a Hutch subscriber calls a Airtel number than Hutch has to pay certain percentage of the call charge to Airtel.

At present, interconnect charges are paid by operators to each other for voice calls.

There is no such charge for SMS.

The move is aimed at compensating operators whose networks are getting choked due to incoming SMS traffic.

“With operators offering different bundled tariff plans for SMS and with SMS being increasingly used as an advertising medium, the SMS traffic imbalance across the operators is increasing. There is a possibility that some networks are burdened with a large proportion of incoming SMS traffic. Thus, there seems to be a need for regulatory intervention to ensure that no operator assumes an unnecessary burden,” TRAI said in the consultation paper.

I believe the problem is aggravated by bulk SMS providers who use their pipe with one operator to blast messages across operators. Since there is interconnect for SMS delivery but no IUC, the operators at the receiving end are forced to carry that traffic without any gains.

SMS

The latest cover story of India’s top business magazine Business World is on Mobile VAS. Needless to say that these are boom times for the Indian mobile VAS industry. Rediff has syndicated the story and its a must read. Have captured some salient points.

The article cites a Lehman Brothers report which puts the size of the industry at Rs 2300 crores. This includes texting and is not just operator share. By 2010, the report estimates mobile data to be a $10-billion (Rs 43,000-crore) market in India. The report says that EBITDA from data revenue could go up to 65%, compared to 30% or so from voice.

To put things into perspective, India has 108 million homes with TV, 90 million mobile users and 7.5 million Internet subscribers.

So whats all this fuss about mobile entertainment.

Indian Idol got more than 55 million votes via SMS between Nov 04 to Mar 05. At Rs 3 per SMS, that is Rs 16.5 crore (Rs 165 million). The telecom companies made Rs 11.5 crore (Rs 115 million), and Sony about Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million).

Radio Mirchi gets 40,000-45,000 SMSes a day.

Indian music industry got about Rs 140 crore (Rs 1.40 billion) or 20% of its legitimate revenues from mobile music in 2005.

Shridhar Subramaniam, MD, Sony-BMG says a hit film can generate Rs 1-1.2 crore – about 5% of an album’s sale on mobile revenues. Its big mobile hit of the year is Rang De Basanti.

Saregama makes half its money on ringtones through its catalogue. It “sells nothing but ringtones. With new releases, we have the rights to images and wallpapers”, says Sarkar.

The big media firms — Star, Sony and BCCL, among others — have set up entire divisions for mobile entertainment.

Star CEO Peter Mukerjea has maintained that mobile telephony should eventually bring in 30% of the company’s revenues. And Sony will set up its own backend for digital downloads this year.

Of Reliance’s 18 million subscribers, more than 10 million use data regularly. Roughly half its data revenues comes from film-related content.

  • At the end of December 2005 R World, its mobile portal had 5.3 million visitors.
  • About 32% of the portal’s revenues came from ringtones and 20% from films.
  • Games and cricket form a respectable 8-9 per cent each.

What worked for Mobile VAS in India.

Most Indians use the mass transport system like the Japanese and unlike the Americans who drive cars to work.

Customers are cool with paying for information on the mobile unlike the Internet.

Mobile phone is bridging the digital divide (that the Internet was supposed to)
in smaller towns and villages for entertainment and information.

India has collecting societies – the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) and Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL). According to rates prescribed by PPL, anywhere between 25-40% comes back to music firms.

The media companies are not the ones to be left behind.

For media buying and planning firms such as Group M, all the work with mobile phones is “brand centric,” says Tushar Vyas, its national director (interaction).

That means that if Fa’s creative and media plan demands that there should be a mobile play, say, a contest, poll or plain branding, then Group M will look at content or partnerships where it can promote Fa on the mobile phone.

Advertisers are trying their best to get their two bits in. So, Thums Up has a game it designed with Mobile2Win, Castrol has its own ringtone (and 100,000 people actually downloaded it), and Reliance offers bill payment on R World, railway bookings, and even exam results.

Can any article on mobile entertainment be complete without a mention of the ongoing feud between the operators and aggregators on revenue shares.

Currently, the Indian market is split roughly at 60:30:10 between mobile operators, media companies and aggregators. Mobile operators argue that they make the investment and control the consumer, so they should keep a lion’s share of the mobile data pie.

Prasad of Reliance says that internationally, operators pay revenue share only on the basis of actual downloads. In India, the figure on which this is calculated includes network usage and subscription fee and, therefore, the percentage that comes back to the operator has to be larger.

Ultimately, in a fragmented, oversupplied content market, it should be easy to get good stuff if you have a sense of what will work and what won’t. Media companies have a nose for it, mobile companies don’t.

So, as the need for differentiated content, especially with TV, songs, news and more audio-visual content becoming important, expect much more poaching from programming departments of TV channels, and lots and lots of loose alliances.

Some quotable quotes:

Viren Popli, senior vice-president, (interactive), Star India
“The VCR gave back to consumers the concept of time; the mobile will give them back the concept of space. You can consume entertainment when you want and where you want it.”

Raj Singh, director, Activemedia Technology
“Only 60 million people know English. Hindi is where the eyeballs are”

Hemant Sachdev, director (marketing and communications), Bharti Tele-Ventures
“The Indian consumer is willing to pay a premium for VAS”

Other notable facts:

India has one of the lowest spectrum allocation per GSM operator in the world, about 6 Mhz against, over 25 in the UK or over 20 in China.

Just 15-20% of the phones in India have colour screens and/or cameras.

The effective rate per minute has moved from Rs 1.50 to Re 0.95, while costs per minute have been chopped from Rs 1.25 to Re 0.87 on its way to becoming Rs 0.8.

SMS

The Madras High Court has lifted the stay on 18 telecom companies from sending SMS of match alerts for the India-Pakistan one-day series saying the company had preferred the suit belatedly, without disclosing all material facts.

However, the court made it clear that SMS was the exclusive right of event organisers and that mobile operators could not exploit it for commercial purposes.

Describing the SMS rights as the “first of its kind,” Ms. Justice Banumathi said:

This court is of the view that the information made available over SMS is collected only from the games telecast over television. So the SMS right is the exclusive right of the organisers. Scores and facts, though in the public domain, are gathered from the telecast series … such hot news/scores create a narrow quasi property right in news which may not be copyrighted … mobile phone operators cannot exploit the game by sending scores or the alerts through SMS technology and exploit it for commercial purposes.’

Marksman counsel argued that real-time match alerts were time-sensitive information requiring special protection. The telecom companies were attempting to misappropriate the information for commercial exploitation, he said. The BCCI said SMS was a “textual right” such as telecast or audio rights. He said that even the BCCI might auction such rights.

SMS