Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Aug 13 2012   4:52AM GMT

Unrealistic telecom tariffs

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

The change that has taken place in the telecom sector is nothing short of a revolution. What is available today is far different from what existed two decades ago. From a stage where we used to struggle to communicate with someone far away, we have come to an age where communication devices and services are available off-the-shelf. Far from being tied down with a fixed instrument attached to a wire, now we roam free with a wireless instrument in hand.

The tariffs that we pay for use of communication services today are also a fraction of what we incurred in the yesteryears. Voice calls and data services have become affordable and are being used by the masses. However, some elements of the tariffs are still indecently high and seem out of place with the current situation. Let me explain why they are unsustainable.

Information, communication, & entertainment (ICE)

Today telephony and information technology are intricately merged; both these platforms operate interchangeably. For instance, we can use the desktop/laptop for voice and video communication and our mobile handsets can access Internet and other applications. Any data flow or voice/video is free on the Internet whereas it gets charged when we operate on the telephone. This is the paradox which is hurting the telecom companies and we will perhaps see new business models evolving. Let us examine a few cases which cause this disruption.

  • Use of Internet for video chat

A very popular use has been that of parents talking to their children studying in USA, England and other countries through use of applications like Skype, Gvideo, etc. They talk for hours and almost every day without paying a penny to the telecom companies. International calls over ISD have almost become a rarity. Many companies too have been using this facility to talk to their branches or business partners overseas. Since international (ISD) calls are expensive, using these tools makes a lot of sense.

  • Using instant messaging

Interactive messaging using yahoo chat, gtalk, etc., have been popular for many years and now many of these applications are available on smart phones, e.g., Whatsapp, Viber gtalk, etc. So people on the move use these options to communicate instead of using the messaging services on their phones. As most phones now use GPRS or its equivalent, use of social networking platforms keeps people in touch. Telecom companies therefore stand to lose revenue on messaging which they usually bill as value added services.

  • Calling using freeware VOIP SW

Many of these software are gaining popularity for example Viber, Nymgo, Jumblo, etc. You can subscribe to these services and make calls and pay nominal charges. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to use these for international calls as the international long distance charges are still too high.

  • Use of Wi-Fi facility

Wi-Fi connectivity these days is available at most airports, hotels, institutions, companies, clubs, etc. They are free of charge for guests and visitors, but even otherwise you can buy usage for a few hours or for a day and use it extensively. I was abroad for a holiday recently and though I bought a region specific card with international roaming, I took recourse to using Wi-Fi liberally thus saving considerably on ISD calls and roaming charges.

Time for change

Integrated communication has really been a disruptive technology. I believe that the whole telecom sector is set for a change and companies in this sector will have to adopt new business models to stay afloat. While talk time charges and national roaming charges in our country have come down drastically, international call charges and roaming charges are still too high for comfort. They are in fact so high that it doesn’t make sense to today’s customers. All this is set for a change.

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