| Put option
New Delhi, Jan 1: It was touted as the poor man’s cellphone—but the way the Tatas and Reliance are rolling out their limited mobility services, the moniker now appears to be a complete misnomer.
The lowest tariff package—put together by Reliance Infocomm’s IndiaMobile—requires a subscriber to pay Rs 3,000 up front which is beyond the reach of the so-called poor man, despite the juicy bait of STD calls at 40 paise per minute. The limited mobile service offered by the government too is at rates beyond the reach of any family with an annual income of Rs 10,000.
This raises a question: was it in the end just a ploy to get back-door entry into the mobility segment with the pitch really made for the middle and the upper crusts of society.
“The objective of offering the poor man a mobile phone is being achieved and will be reflected soon in the lower middle income groups. It is already visible among the middle class and will be soon picked up by others,” S. C. Khanna, secretary general of the Association of Basic Telecom Operators (ABTO) said.
“Tata, Himachal Futuristic Communications (HFCL), Shyam Telecom and others have already announced their plans to offer these services in a big way and bundle other value-added services. Limited mobility service providers are looking at an exponential growth in the subscriber base. The target is 90 million cable TV subscribers,” Khanna added.
Inaugurating the IndiaMobile service, communications minister Pramod Mahajan had given an example of his milkman calling up from the local train to say would be late due to some problem—an attempt to drive home the point that the service was targeted at the poor man.
However, a senior telecom analyst who wished to remain anonymous said: “Limited mobility operators should explain how a person with an annual income of Rs 10,000 will be able to afford a phone even if he opts for the scheme offering a cost as less as Rs 1.20 per minute. If this can be accepted, why has the government not offered this service in lieu of the fixed line connections in villages'”
“Even if the poor man accepts the offer, he does not have a PAN card neither do they have bank cheques to give the installments. These are issues which service providers, who have been championing the cause of the poor man’s mobile, do not care to address,” he added.