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War of Telecoms: A Win Win Situation for the Consumers

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Karuna Ahuja:

India has witnessed what many describe as a telecommunication revolution during the last decade. In just ten years, mobile phones, once a luxury item, have now become a necessary commodity in the country. They have now reached the bottom of the pyramid acquiring millions of new subscribers every month. Consequently, India is the cheapest nation in terms of teleservices and the second largest consumer of wireless services on the globe with nearly 450 million connected people and a teledensity of about 35% (Source: Wiki). From Airtel to Docomo, the most recent player to have taken a plunge into this vast pool of Indian Mobile Service Providers , there are 17 companies who have pledged themselves to the cause of shrinking the world to the size of a football in the cheapest possible way. This has taken the industry from being an oligopoly to an emerging area of hypercompetition.

The major cause of this revolution can be attributed to the launch to TATA DocoMo (Do Communication over Mobile) and MTS in major cities who offered per second pulse which was a new concept for the industry. As a result , within a month of its launch , DoCoMo was riding high with a million customers in Mumbai itself. This triggered off a tariff war which the biggies couldn’t help but enter into as well. In the past few months the tariffs have fallen a whooping 50% and in nearly all circles are under Re. 1 per minute for local calls.

Since it’s inception, DoCoMo has launched the ‘Pay per Second’ and ‘Pay per character’ talk and SMS plans respectively. These have been quite warmly received by the consumers. Vodafone & Airtel both has been forced to reduce and reconsider their tariff plans. Tata Indicom took the war to a level further. It introduced the ‘Pay per Call’ plan. Whether you talk for 1 or 10 minutes, you pay Re 1. This plan has definitely caught on with the customers. But, how profitable is it for Tata Tele is another question.Virgin is offering super attractive plans which talk of STD @ 1Paise/min. Aircel which is also catching up rapidly brought more innovations with the 1-2-3 tariff STD plan. According to the company, subscriber will be charged at reducing rates as they talk more on their phone. This will not only encourage users to call more and talk more, enjoy the benefit of reducing call rates but will also ensure high usage of current low utilized spectrum / bandwidth and thereby increase the revenue opportunity for Aircel as well. Along with such innovations in the tariff plans the companies also embark on the latest use of technology thus enabling more value-added, multimedia-rich data exchange. One happy result of this situation is the dissemination of relevant information that is made accessible with mobile devices through the mobile network by using the location information of the mobile device and the recent developments are positive indicators.

The million dollar question out here is what is the outcome of this war? A reference to management theories suggest that these strategies may help build up a market share but certainly delay the break even period and hence the companies may not may able to sustain it on a medium and long term basis. And by the the time their variable costs are covered, companies may start making losses. The Goliaths in the industry can surely afford the risk but any new player may not be guaranteed the ‘cushion’ that the incumbents (or the regular players) can afford. The negative impact that the established names are facing is falling share prices.

Strategically, the biggies cannot afford to bring down the tariffs to fifty percent as this will completely nullify their profit margins. Still they sit very comfortable as they share a huge chunk of the market which is virtually very stable population believing in the method of the tried and tested and may not switch over that easily. However with international companies taking interest in this field, even their situation seems precarious. Furthermore, at The International Telecommunication Union at Geneva in October last year, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) chairman J S Sharma suggested that that per second pulse can be made mandatory for all the operators. This just means the companies have to be more innovative with their offers. While the switch to a per-second basis will be user friendly, it is likely to lead to revenue loss of 10-15 per cent for the telecom companies, according to an HSBC Securities report.

Nevertheless, it’s a win-win situation all along for the customers. As a result of such high competitiveness, the customers get to enjoy the pleasures of easy and cheap communication across the country and even across the globe. With the introduction of Mobile Number portability(MNP) wherein mobile telephone users can retain their mobile telephone numbers when changing from one mobile network operator to another, the consumer doesn’t have to think twice before switching service providers. Only the telco with the best network, best services and cheapest tariff plans will be able to retain customers which is a great thing for the consumers. Also, Personal navigation devices (PND) have gained considerable amplitude in India. With more private firms offering advanced features in the PNDs, such as MapMyIndia Navigator and SatGuide, while keeping the costs affordable, the corporate competition is leveraged to consumer advantage.

With such cut throat competition and constant innovation in this field, it would be interesting to see how the future course of the Indian Telecommunication Industry shapes up. With the main aim being achieving full customer satisfaction, these companies are here to stay and more are ready to take a fresh plunge in this bloodbath which is called the The Great Indian Tariff Tussle.

The writer is a correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz and also a student of BITS Pilani.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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