Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Solar-powered telecom towers now

The high-powered schmoozing at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has yielded a project to install solar-powered cell phone towers in India.
Vihaan Networks Limited (VNL) and lithium ion battery maker Boston Power today announced that the two companies have successfully developed the small-scale telecom stations which VNL plans to roll out this year.
The communications-based stations, called WorldGSM, are designed to operate entirely from a few solar panels and are not connected to the grid. The Boston Power batteries can power the tower, which can be set up in half a day, for up to three days without sunlight.
The idea for the product came about at last year's World Economic Forum where the CEOs of both companies met after winning "Technology Pioneer" awards.
VNL calls the WorldGSM towers a "microtelecom" product because they are designed for the billions of people who live in rural areas outside the mobile phone network's reach. VNL says these customers typically spend less than two dollars a month on mobile phone service.
Coupling storage with cell phone base stations makes sense in many places where connecting to the grid is a challenge or adds significantly to the cost. The WorldGSM base stations are being tested now and are set for deployment in different areas this year. source


The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), as well as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), today swung into action in response to growing complaints from subscribers that they were finding it difficult to switch operators under the new mobile number portability (MNP) scheme.
Consumers can retain their mobile number but change to a new operator, under MNP. It is estimated 125,000 to 150,000 subscribers have already made such a request since MNP was launched across the country last week
DoT’s Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TERM) Cell today sent notices to all operators, with a warning to comply or face stiff action. “Many instances of non-compliance and violations are being brought to the notice of the TERM Cell by customers. The conditions laid down by DoT and Trai regarding MNP are to be followed in letter and spirit. Any instance of violation of these may lead to penalty and other strict action as DoT may deem fit to take,” the notice said.

Trai decided to send experts to six of the top operators to check if the delays faced by consumers in switching their operators under MNP was due to technical issues or done deliberately. “We will get a clear understanding by the weekend,” said a senior Trai official.
Mandatory action
Mobile subscribers who want to avail the MNP facility have to send a message to 1900, which will generate a UPC (unique porting code) number. With this UPC, the customers have to fill in a form with the service provider they wish to move to. DoT has received many complaints from customers that operators are not generating the UPC number, a must for accessing MNP.
“Under no condition is the SMS to 1900 for UPC generation to be treated differently. It has been reported that a few telecom service providers are resorting to a regret message like ‘Sorry customer, please try after some time’, ‘Dear customer, please wait for some time’ and subsequently ‘Try to contact customer for retention’. This type of practice is not to be resorted to,” the notice said.
Some operators from where customers wished to shift, after sending the UPC, were rejecting the application, saying the UPC was not correct, though it was the same number sent to the subscriber. If a SMS is received on 1900, it is to be responded with the UPC, the department added.“Most companies that we checked have got about 50,000 to 100,000 customers who have requested for the code number in the last few days. However, about 30 per cent of them have not taken the next step of making a request for change after they get a call from their current operator,” says a senior executive of a leading telecom company.source

Want a free pizza? Threaten to switch mobile operator

The introduction of the mobile number portability (MNP) has prompted telecom operators to come up with innovative ways to retain customers. As if dirt-cheap call rates were not enough, operators are now treating subscribers to free pizzas as well.
Some of Bharti Airtel’s 145 million-odd subscribers were in for a pleasant surprise. Their threat to jump ship following the recent nationwide launch of MNP resulted in them getting pizza vouchers. Other service providers are also pulling out all stops — offering free talk time, discounts and customised data plans to retain customers.
Several subscribers chose Twitter to narrate their stories. “Airtel sends me a pizza voucher as a gift. First such freebie I’ve received from Airtel in six years I’ve used their service. MNP jitters?,” Bangalore’s Ashwin Prabhu tweeted on January 20, when MNP was launched by prime minister Manmohan Singh. “Airtel offers me a free pizza for being a loyal customer on fixed line. This on a day when MNP goes live,” tweeted Praveen Garlapati.
“We regularly offer delight programmes to our customers, MNP or otherwise. We are not offering any special plans for MNP,” Poonam Nikam, Bharti Airtel spokesperson, said.
A Vodafone spokesperson said, “We are not offering anything at this point of time.” However, Xylene from Bangalore wrote on Twitter on January 21, “Update Day 1: Vodafone called me and offered Rs99 VMC — Vodafone Mobile Connect — which they were previously offering for Rs299.”
Aggressive efforts by telecom operators to woo rival customers as well as retain their high-value customers seems to be the next chapter in a hyper-competitive telecom market in India. There are 10-12 operators per circle in the country.
From the perspective of competition, analysts tend to group telecom operators into old players or incumbents, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea and BSNL — and the so-called new entrants or challengers, including Uninor, Videocon, MTS and Etisalat.
Telecom sector analysts Rohit Chordia and Vineet Thodge of Kotak Institutaional Equities say the ‘carrot and carrot’ policy being used by incumbent operators has the potential to backfire. “We are surprised at the subscriber retention moves of the large incumbents post MNP launch,” Chordia and Thodge wrote in a note on January 21. “Put yourself in the shoes of a loyal customer with no intention to switch from her existing operator - she sees her mobile operator trying to woo new subscribers with attractive‘port in’ offers, and offering freebies to (some) fellow customers showing their intent to ‘portout’. Isn’t it natural for her to question the benefit of her loyalty?”
Loyal customers who have not been offered freebies may feel left out and hence, decide to port out, even if they are happy with their service provider. Even if the customer churn settles after a period of time, the MNP-related behaviour being seen now will likely have a long-lasting effect and financial impact as well, the analysts said.source

Enter The World Of 3G - Airtel (Bengaluru)

Great New Packs on Airtel Internet

Trai seek comment on pricing of financial service using mob phones

Telecom regulator TRAI today sought comments from various stakeholders on issues related to providing basic financial services through mobile phones like service charges and security of transactions.
"In order to identify and address the various issues related to the provisioning and pricing of delivery of financial service using mobile phone, the Authority has issued this consultation paper to seek stakeholders'' comments," TRAI said in a statement.
The last date for receiving comments is February 14, it added.
The paper sought suggestions on whether the customer would approach a Business Correspondent or its agent for opening of a non-frills account, would there be any provisioning requirements at the service provider''s end in any of the methods/options, and any other comments relating to provisioning and pricing of mobile services for financial transactions.
The government had set up an Inter Ministerial Group (IMG) to prepare a framework for the delivery of basic financial services using mobile phones. The Group submitted its report on January 14, 2011.
The IMG has advised that people, living in areas that do not have access to banks, should be able to open accounts linked to their cellphones and be allowed withdrawals of up to Rs 5,000 a day.
IMG, constituted by Cabinet Secretary in 2009, has suggested that 1.55 lakh post offices across the country should be used to provide banking services with the help of cellphones to people in rural areas.
The report also suggested a 2 per cent transaction fees to be charged from the individual.

Finally Heats Up ------>>> 3G

After a slow start, the 3G scene in India is finally heating up with more players rolling out their services. Bharti Airtel on Monday launched its 3G services in Bengaluru. The company plans to launch services in all 13 circles, where it has 3G license by March 2011.
Another old GSM player Aditya Birla Group’s Idea Cellular would be rolling out 3G services within this quarter. Amongst other big players, Tata Docomo and Reliance Communications have already started offering their 3G services. Tata Docomo had been the first off the block amongst the private sector players when it launched 3G services in December 2010

What telcos are offering!!

Telcom firms have launched a major advertising, marketing and promotional blitz to attract new and existing customers after the government launched a pan-India scheme that allows them to switch operators while retaining the numbers.

Although mobile number portability may not be a big game changer for the industry, it is certainly proving to be a boon for customers giving them the freedom to shift networks, as companies are not just improving their service but also throwing in freebies.

State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), for example, has waived the porting charges and is offering a SIM card free of cost along with an additional talk value of Rs.100 for pre-paid customers who switch to their service from other operators.

Post-paid customers moving to BSNL will get 50 per cent rebate on their first bill. Idea Cellular, the first telcom operator which started campaigning for the service, has not announced any special offers for the customers, but it is making its presence with its round the clock "No Idea, Get Idea" campaigns.

"We have not launched any special tariff; however, our focus is to provide good network and customer services. We are confident that the large number of customers who want better network will switch to Idea," said Rajat Mukarji corporate affairs officer Idea Cellular.

However, the industry biggie, Bharti Airtel, has not gone full throttle on promotional campaigns. The company is restricting itself to a few offers like the "Airtel surprise" for customers who switch to its network free talktime, special call rates and free SMS.

Unlike Idea Cellular's campaigns citing negativities of the other networks, Airtel has taken a much softer approach with the punch line which says, "Move to Airtel. Bring your old number along."

Vodafone, known for its distinct advertising campaigns, too is not as aggressive as Idea. Its "everybody's welcome" television commercials are cute and feature the face of its promotional activities -- a pug.

One of the biggest players in the industry, Reliance Communications has also launched a slew of television ad campaigns to promote its network and attract customers after the launch of number portability service across the country.

"Global experience shows customers are keen on porting to a service provider offering better network quality, full suite of voice and data products, superior experience and enriched value-added offers," said Mahesh Prasad, president of Reliance Communications.

New telecom players such as Tata DoCoMo have also started campaigns with tags such as "Welcome to the world of freedom, welcome to the world of Tata DoCoMo."

To make it easy for the customers to port into their networks, the operators have also created helpline numbers. These are toll free services created to address the queries of the customers.

To avail himself of the service, a customer has to pay a maximum of Rs 19 to the new operator for "porting" the number and remain with the new operator for at least three months.

The customer has to send an SMS from the existing phone to 1900. Based on this, a unique porting code will be sent by existing provider. An application then has to be filed with the new service provider mentioning the code for transferring the connection.

The maximum waiting period for porting is fixed at seven working days. But the number may remain out of service for just two hours. India currently has over 700 million mobile phone users, making the network the largest in the world after China but ahead of the US. The country has been adding 15-18 million new mobile phone connections to the network every month. source