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As mobile Net spreads, telcos step up data services branding

Abhishek Law
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To work out new models, increase per user revenue

Telecom companies are going aggressive not just on pricing data services but also on creating a differentiation in positioning.

Already viral on the Web, Airtel’s “jo tera hai, wo mera hai” promises to connect friends even while cashing in on the youth’s fixation of putting things up on social networking sites.

Vodafone India’s “Internet is fun” campaign launched during IPL-5 created a stir with “faster games on the Internet” being its standout point. (Each advertisement focussed on how Vodafone makes the mobile Internet experience more fun.)

Focussed on working out new models and increasing the average revenue per user (ARPU), telcos are opting to brand their data services. The strategy is to make clear the segment they are looking to place their offerings in. The ARPU for GSM operators went up by a rupee over the previous quarter to Rs 97 for March 2012.

Other Telcos

“Telcos need to re-invent their models and fit into the larger ecosystem. It is but a natural process especially when mobile Internet is becoming popular,” Rajan S. Matthews, Director-General, Cellular Operators Association of India, told Business Line.

According to market sources, the traditional telco model — dependence on voice offerings — is no longer an option. Internet, especially social media and game downloads, are eating into that pie; hence the need for such branding. Currently, data contribute around 15 per cent of a telco’s revenue.

“As in the past, Internet has been a standard theme in our communication starting from Super Weeks campaign using Super Zoozoos to Internet is Fun. We will continue to invest in both educating and propagating benefits of data for all segment of users,” a Vodafone spokesperson told Business Line.

In fact, in India, Airtel and Vodafone are not alone in this race. Tata’s DoCoMo is branding its offerings as a faster option through its “Put an end to waiting” campaign (Ranbir Kapoor as an ageing restaurant owner serving customers slowly.)

R-Com carried out its “My best plan” campaign for its USB offering (dongles).

The plan’s uniqueness is that it adjusts basis the customer's usage, to generate the lowest possible bill. Reliance, however, did not respond to queries.

“Currently, data consumption is restricted to low-end offerings such as SMSes or ringtones. But it is definitely the area of the future for telcos. Moreover, most of such branding is being done by those operators which have 3G offerings or may roll out 4G services,” Matthews maintains.

Pushing 3G offerings

The other model includes branding 3G offerings.

Idea’s last campaign — “an idea can change your after-life” — came out during IPL-5 and focussed on 3G. Airtel’s 3G campaigns include the brand positioning of ‘closer to what you love’ highlighting the functional benefits of the service.

According to Anusha Subramani, senior research executive at Tonse Telecom, operators have introduced the pay-as-you-use type of pricing model after initial tariff data plan consumption.

“Airtel introduced in May affordable 3G tariffs with volume-based browsing rate on 3G (down from 10p/10kb to 3p/10Kb). As a result, data usage per customer increased from 107 MBs to 112 MBs from Mar to June-2012,” she maintained.

Customised Data Packs

Airtel now has its 3G Smartbytes or ‘snacking options’ where customers are able to continue to surf even after exhausting their monthly data limit. These allow customers to choose a plan that suits their needs at lower costs.

“The adoption of 3G has been picking up gradually, especially as consumers get to experience it and understand the impact it can have on their life and lifestyles,” Deepak Gulati, Executive President, Mobility Business, Tata Teleservices Ltd, said.

According to a Vodafone spokesperson, the nascent market will follow the “Discovery” model for leveraging 3G speeds and connectivity.

“We have created products to meet customer needs across segments that include starter plans for snacking customers, high bundle plans for downloaders, daily packs for on the fly users,” he added.

abhishek.l@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 20, 2012)
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