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MTNL to launch SMS on landlines

02-January-2004
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MTNL to launch SMS on landlines

Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd is set to launch SMS facilities on its landlines for its customers in Mumbai, a senior official with the telecom major said.

Over 100 exchanges in the city are being "tweaked" for this purpose and facility would be available to users any day now, he said. The SMS facility itself would be free of charge while the user will be charged for one local call for use of the phone for the facility.

This would be one of the additional revenue streams for MTNL which hopes the feature will be well used as it is enjoying the largest landline subscriber base in the country in its circles of Mumbai and Delhi.

There is only one hitch in this, said the official, and this is to do with the flabby advertising muscle of MTNL following a directive that asks for an elaborate procedure to be observed for each and every advertisement that the company wishes to issue. This procedure was apparently introduced following an internal dispute on placing of advertisements and the appointment of advertising agencies.

The frequent delay in obtaining permission for advertisements from a chain of authorities, with permission very often being denied as well, has nipped many a new introduction in the bud for the company.

"Many of our services are not popular because people do not know about them," said the official. "Every time we introduce a new scheme, it takes a long time for the information to reach the customer. By this time, some other rival has offered a similar new service."

MTNL's SMS facility is rather different from that of Bharat Sanchar Telephone Nigam, which has launched the facility in select cities in the country. The BSNL service requires a special SMS-enabled telephone while MTNL does not. The MTNL user dials 1501 and reads out the message to the operator who keys it ahead to a cellphone or to another landline (through voice).

(Some private operators such as Bharti, through Touchtel and Reliance Infocomm, through their fixed wireless telephones, have also launched SMS on landphones but their user bases are as yet small.)

Another welcome bit of news for MTNL is that, after more than a year of consideration and delay, the tenders for 4 lakh lines of GSM each in Mumbai and in Delhi; and 4 lakh lines each of CDMA in both cities have been okayed by the Board, said a senior official.

"This means that we shall have 16 lakh more wireless lines available in both these cities," he said. "This could constitute one of the largest rollouts for just two circles in a single year by any telecom operator."

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