The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bharti trusts basic instinct for growth

New Delhi, Nov. 23: Bharti TeleTech, the fixed-line handset manufacturing arm of the Bharti Group, is bullish on the potential of fixed-line phones despite the onslaught from mobile telephony, a market that continues to record more than 75 per cent growth each month.

The company hopes that the demand for the fixed-lines phones in the country will continue — parallel to the demand for the mobile phones. Bharti TeleTech was recently chosen by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd as the single distributor of short message service (SMS) based fixed-line phones.

BSNL has already launched the SMS-based fixed-line phones in Calcutta and Bangalore and plans to roll out this service all over the country by early January. It has joined the club of service providers that offer SMS on their fixed-line phones like Bharti’s Touchtel networks. While Reliance Infocomm and Tata Teleservices provide SMS-exchange facility on their fixed wireless telephones within their respective networks only.

Rakesh Bharti Mittal, vice-chairman and managing director of Bharti TeleTech, said: “There is a huge untapped potential in the fixed-line telephony. The mobile phone base may continue to go up but simultaneously the subscriber base of basic phones too is growing exponentially parallel to the mobile base.”

For a fixed-line customer to be able to send and receive SMS on fixed line, not only should the end-user terminal on the sender’s end be SMS-enabled, the end-user terminal at the receiver’s end should also be SMS-enabled. As a result, the user can send text messages to all cellphone owners and only those fixed-line phone owners who own SMS-enabled handsets. Additionally, the operator of the end user should also have an SMS-enabled network.

This is another reason why Beetel is elated. For every person sending an SMS from fixed line there has to be a recipient and that means two-fixed line SMS-enabled phones from Beetel.

Mittal said, “Initially, our target would be the 43 million exiting fixed-line phones that are without additional features like caller-line identification (CLI). This market will also grow for SMS-like features and service providers would be willing to offer more value-added service on the fixed-line phones that are available in mobile phones only.”

He said that by bringing in the vast countrywide fixed-line service network into the SMS service fold is also bound to give a significant boost to the total SMS traffic. And don’t forget, fixed-line phones still outstrip the number of cellphones in the country by a huge margin.

While SMS on fixed line is at its initial stages in India, world over SMS has proven to be a popular information and communication tool both on the GSM and fixed-line platforms. SMS accounts for around 15 per cent of the GSM operators’ revenue in Europe and Asia.

Mittal said that in future fixed-line phones will have additional features like roaming up to less than 5 kilometres using cordless phones.

“We have applied to DoT and WPC to get the spectrum on 2.4 megahertz bandwidth. Worldwide this spectrum is available for the cordless phones and if we can get this spectrum it would be an attractive fixed-line feature,” he added.

According to the GSM Association, an estimated 366 billion SMS were sent globally in 2002. At an average of $0.10, this equates to $36 billion worldwide revenue in 2002 alone, achieved with a minimum of marketing expenditure and relatively straightforward technical implementation.

“By generating only a small percentage of this traffic volume, fixed SMS still has the potential to yield substantial revenues for fixed operators,” explains Nathan Budd, industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “Just 1 per cent of this revenue equates to business volumes of $360 million a year.”

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