Leading telecom experts and service providers said that the 2014-15 budget proposals would revive hopes of a fresh resurgence in mobile telecom Value Added Services sector that was undergoing a paradigm shift from voice to data centric customer services with the rising custom for smart phones.
The fiscal benefits available to infrastructure sector should be extended to telecom industry also in view of the central position the new government has accorded to take all services to online transactions, the experts said.
Participating in the VAS Asia 2014 international conference and exhibition here, the experts said in response to audience question that the budget push for broadband, e-governance, e-commerce and other services would challenge the telecom service providers to widen their offerings as customers make variegated demands all at once. They also agreed that proposed new levies could counter balance the opportunity offered by the government going all out to promote IT based ecosystem.
“With everything moving to mobile environment, a new industry is emerging” said Ram Yagya, Advisor (Operation) Department of Telecommunications. Among them, M-commerce held the pride of place in the market opportunity it provided. M-gaming had a potential of $ 14.3 billion by end of this decade from the $2 billion market it was in 2010. Value added services in regional language were already proving to be of great potential. He referred to Bharti Airtel’s “Behtar Zindagi” content in Rajasthan that had become popular.
With rising concern over privacy issues, The European Union has already mandated the service providers to provide for the online users’ “right to forget” the information the customers fed into the system. Director-General of the Cellular Operators Association of India Rajan S. Mathews called on the service providers in India to be ready to provide this facility to mobile users in India also even though right now it was not mandatory.
“Operators now have to move from providing connectivity to ensure customer experience of a whole wide range” pointed out Shyam Mardikar, Chief – Strategy, Architecture and Engineering, Bharti Airtel. He illustrated with the virtual signaling storm when a plane lands with so many passengers making use of their mobiles for a variety of services and how telecom service providers were aggressively competing for customer service in this atmosphere. “Managing quality of video to handling signaling storm” the paradigm change in the mobile telecom industry was from integration to experience, Mr. Mardikar pointed out.
The expansion of M-services to every type of job also meant a huge demand for spectrum. According to the Airtel executive global spectrum availability across bands was at present 750 MHz while in India available spectrum across bands was only 280 MHz of which what was available for operators here was 15 to 17 MHz as against 46 MHz globally, Mr. Mardikar said.
Fixed and mobile subscribers in India would burgeon from 111 million now to 650 million by 2018, and smart phone penetration would expand many fold from 90 million in 2013 to 520 million by 2020, according to Nishant Batra, vice president and head of engagement practices in Ericsson India. VAS consumption will transition to the Internet forcing operators to change business model and revenue mix. Video calling on handhelds like tablets and smart phones especially among the young would be the preferred mode of communication.
There were already 109 networks with commercial high density voice service in 73 countries. Group messaging, content share, presence, network address book, new services would put operators on a unique position to turn insights gained from user behavior patterns into innovative services and customer support, Batra declared. With potential for the entire value chain to grow, the key issue for operators was to “recognize, adapt and cater to evolving consumer demand”; he underlined explaining the emerging scenario in the value added services.
How several major services have evolved into e-services was seen in the payment sector creating enterprises like PayPal, intuit, venom, square etc, healthcare over dodoc, first opinion, ask md, doctor on demand and others, grocery through redmart, aaramshop, instacart, wholeshare etc., consumer goods through ebay, flipkart, jabong and others and meals through eat, spoon rocket, zesty among others, pointed out OnMobile Vice President, Madhusudan Narayanan. The great change coming over globally and in India was this enormous range of choices for various services from your cozy corner.
With this widening range of choice also was growing rapidly widening availability of smart phones in the entry and ultra-low end pricing range, Mr. Narayanan pointed out. By 2017 a third of these devices would be from the entry and ultra low cost range.
“The word of mouth has now become social enabling consumers to make informed decisions, be more vocal in their likes and dislikes and compare and verify various competing goods and services before purchase” the OnMobile executive said, explaining the paradigm shift coming over the consumer market with the mobile revolution. For operators this trend would have to search for consumer needs and how to make provide life enriching services. “Our challenge”, SC Sharma, senior GM, Product & Pricing, BSNL, said “is how we monitor these rapid changes in consumer preferences and range”.
As India was getting globalised in its economy, the rapid changes in online commerce and user experience made it obligatory for this country also to standardize its services in collaboration with European standardization, said Dinesh Chand Sharma, Seconded European Standardization Expert in India.