The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pay for SMS by distance

New Delhi/Calcutta, July 29: Cellphone users, get ready for a shock. All those who have been zapping messages to friends and relatives in other cities will soon have to pay more.

Cellular operators are planning to come out with a distance-based tariff regime for SMS.

AirTel, Hutch and Idea executives were cautious but admitted that distance-based SMS rates is the way to go.

Fixed-line service providers also offering mobile services are expected to follow suit. Calcutta Telephones has already taken the lead and is preparing to file a distance-based SMS tariff proposal before the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd’s board of directors and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. A senior BSNL official said: “We have not yet decided to launch this sort of tariff plan, but we are aware that a few zones are planning to offer distance-based rates for SMS. ”

What all this means is that while it may be cheaper to send messages to cellphone friends in the same city, it could become more expensive to beep them across the country.

Industry sources say that under the new tariff regime, it could cost 30 paise per SMS within a city, 60 paise anywhere within a state, and Re 1 up to 1,000 km and Rs 1.50 beyond 1,000 km.

Cellular operators now charge anywhere between 60 paise and Rs 1.50 per message sent by post-paid customers.

The SMS rate depends on the tariff package, but it costs the same whether you send an SMS to the girl next door or the old flame in another metropolis.

Most cellular service providers charge a flat rate of Rs 2 per SMS sent by pre-paid users.

It is only now that cellular operators are wising up to the opportunity of ramping up revenues from SMS — their most popular value-added service. SMS accounts for 15-20 per cent of their total revenue.

Once they start charging distance-based SMS rates, this segment could overtake roaming services which contribute the maximum revenue after airtime for cellular operators. Over 90 lakh messages are exchanged daily.

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