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Toll-free SMS for TV game players

Mumbai/New Delhi, Aug 9: Good news for aspiring crorepatis: the next time you want to send an SMS reply to a Kaun Banega Crorepati 2 question and hope like hell you can clamber on to that hot seat, you may not have to pay anything. For the SMS, that is.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) plans to offer a toll-free SMS service in the first week of September that the state-owned telephony giant aims to pitch at corporates and gameshows like KBC 2.

Here’s how it works: the companies can pay to receive SMS from prospective customers and gameshow participants.

Mobile phone users normally are reluctant to respond to a commercial SMS since it would cost them Rs 1.50 to reply. If it’s a gameshow and they vote with their mobiles as they did during Sony’s Indian Idol, it could cost them anywhere between Rs 2 and Rs 10, depending on how proactive they are.

BSNL currently charges Re 1 per SMS from its pre-paid customers and 80 paise from its post-paid subscribers.

The new collect SMS service ' it works on the call collect principle prevalent in the US ' is likely to be priced at Rs 2 for each set of two messages.

The cost will be borne entirely by the promoting company, working largely like the toll-free phone calls that corporates currently offer.

BSNL is hoping that the service will usher in a new phase for commercial use of SMS.

A few countries have experimented with the concept of pre-paid SMS, and it has become popular in Australia and Hungary. BSNL is slated to make the first pre-paid SMS initiative in India ' unless private operators steal the idea and roll it out ahead of it.

India already has a hugely successful toll-free 1600 phone call service and the toll-free SMS initiative is expected to be a big hit as well.

Arun Kumar, senior deputy director general, new services, BSNL, said: “Often, people don’t reply to an SMS because they have to pay for it. If they know the SMS has already been paid for, they will reply promptly. We will be launching the toll-free SMS in September.”

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