FREE SMS messaging service for India only that may prove to be incredibly useful for citizen groups and NGOs. The service allows anyone to set up a group of mobile subscribers to message to, or for a group to message each other many-to-many. A user can receive news alerts and blog updates via SMS, for example; or a group can group-text message to each other.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Restriction on bulk SMS, MMS lifted

New Delhi: The government on Thursday withdrew the restrictions on bulk SMSes and MMSes, imposed two weeks ago to check the spread of rumours relating to the violence in lower Assam. The disturbances had led to the exodus of northeasterners from Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune. 

    The restrictions, imposed initially for 15 days on August 17, were lifted with immediate effect on Thursday. The withdrawal came a day before the stipulated deadline of August 31, after the home ministry found it conducive to lift the limited ban. 
    During the ban period, cellphone users were not allowed to send more than five SMSes at one go and more than 20kb of data as MMSes per day for the first seven days beginning August 17. Later, in consultation with the home ministry, DoT increased the number of SMSes to 20 per day on August 23.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

‘CP’s transfer unfair, will send wrong message’

Mumbai: Retired police officers and security experts on Thursday questioned the rationale and timing of the decision to transfer Arup Patnaik. 
    The move came just two days after Raj Thackeray slammed Patnaik and home minister R R Patil over the way the August 11 violence was handled and demanded their resignation. On Thursday, though, the government sought to clarify that the transfer was part of a"systematic procedure". 
    Former IPS officer Y P Singh said it appears that the government wants to promote Raj in order to tackle the Shiv Sena. "Patnaik's transfer has sent the wrong message and is unfair. If the government wanted to transfer Patnaik, it could have done so after a thorough inquiry. It clearly looks like a punishment transfer and promotion. Patnaik has been made the scapegoat," added Singh. 
    Former Mumbai police commissioner M N Singh said the August 11 episode might not be the only reason for Patnaik's transfer. "I would not like to give credit to Raj Thackeray, he is just trying to gain political mileage. He had demanded the home minister and police commisioner's resignation, but I don't think the decision was taken due to any political pressure," he said. 
    Singh further said: "I understand the proposal for Patnaik's transfer and promotion was already in the pipeline. It looks like he has been eased out. The police handled the situation very effectively and tactfully on August 11 and we should give them credit for the same. However, Patnaik also fired a DCP in front of everybody that day. Then, a member of his force offered a rose to Raj Thackeray a 
few days later, which was the height of indiscipline. I suspect these incidents did not go down well with the government." 
    Last week, former director general of police S S Puri sent an SMS to Patnaik, appreciating the handling of the violence. The SMS was printed on the first page of the police bulletin meant for internal circulation. 
    A senior police officer said the decision seemed hurried. "The promotion and transfer file was pending with the government; it could have waited for a few more weeks. Now, some parties will take advantage of the move. Patnaik was handling the city effectively and knew how to manage big crowds." 

'Tough man who did some good work' 
Arup Patnaik's transfer evoked mixed reactions from members of the police force. While a section of senior officers said he was a hard taskmaster, lower ranked cops remained tightlipped. 
    Sources said Patnaik did a lot of good work. "He was tough on his men as he wanted to enforce discipline. He wanted the police station to be like a corporate office and give policemen a clean and healthy environment. Patnaik took several initiatives and started at least two good canteens at the police headquarters and the Esplanade court, with subsidized and healthy food. He wanted his men to stay in shape," said an officer. 
    Patnaik went to cop quarters to check the living conditions there and even paid surprise visits to police stations to check if they were clean. "The only problem with Patnaik was that he could be really rough," said a senior officer.—S Ahmed Ali

SMS quota hiked to 20, but mobile users want half rental back

Mumbai: In a major relief to telecom consumers, who were allowed to send only 5 SMSs or MMSsof 25Kb a daytillThursday morning, will now be able tosendup to20 SMSs a day. 

    Thedepartmentof telecom issued this directive to telecom operators in the city on Thursday, following which most telecom firms started implementing it. Interestingly, major telecom operators are implementing this only for their prepaid consumers, citing technical reasons. 
    Meanwhile, cellphone users have demanded refund of half of the rentals of this month which is charged according to the quota of SMSs awarded to each tariff plan. They are alsocomplaining that they were spending more as they hadto make morecallsbecause of curbs on SMSs and also facing congestion in the network. Even on the sixth day of the 15-day period for implementingSMS restrictions, the confusion and congestion in 
networks prevailed. While some subscribers could send several SMSs, others with the same operator and in some cases same tariff plans could not send more than five. The congestion was mainly due to consumers resorting to frequentcalls rather than SMSing while the confusion was mainly due to lack of uniformity in applying the directive across allconsumer categories. 
    Achintya Mukherjee of Bombay Telephone Users Association said, "It's criminal to reduce the quota of 100 to 200 SMS tojust5 andinconveniencing a large section of consumers." Hesupportedthedemand of consumersto return rentals andsaidsuchdecisionsshould be taken after taking operators and consumers into confidence. Social activist Ajit Shenoy said though the reason for doing thiswas aimed at national security, the limit should be relaxed now as the communal tension was fading fast. Interestingly, smaller telecom operators are implementing the directivefor both pre-paid aswell as post-paidconsumers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NETWORK CONGESTION Confusion over govt SMS order

Mumbai: Even on the fourth day of the government directive not to allow cell phone consumers to send more than five SMSs a day, confusion and congestion in the cellular mobile networks prevailed in the city. 
    While some subscribers could send 100 SMSs a day, others with the same operator could not send more than five. Apparently, some leading telecom operators in the city said they were implementing the directive only for pre-paid consumers as they were unable to do so for post-paid due to technical reasons. 
    A senior telecom depart
ment official said four leading telecom operators inform DoT about their technical non-feasibility in implementing the directive for post-paid consumers. "Other smaller companies are implementing it for both," they added. 
    Apparently many postpaid consumers were confused as some could send more than five SMSs a day, while some could not even send a single SMS. "It's sheer discrimination as the company should not charge me rental as per my 
plan for these 15 days," said Ankit Raje, a resident of Colaba. 
    "Besides confusion and congestion, it's a ludicrous rule to control rumour-mongers. There are various free SMS websites from which rumours can be circulated. And the government assumes that within 15 days everything will be normal. What if it does not even after 15 days? Will they initiate this limit for the rest of our lives? This is a clear case of shooting the messenger when they should be looking into the actual cause of the unrest," said a consumer, Manohar Nair, according to whom rentals charged for more SMSs 
should be deducted from bills by the companies. 
    Hundreds of cell phone consumers across the city, which has one of the highest tele-densities in the country, are reporting heavy congestion in the network for three days. This is mainly due to a spurt in the number of calls in the absence of the facility to send more than five SMSs or MMSs a day keeping networks busy and subsequently putting several calls on hold or waiting. 
    The confusion that prevailed among call categories of consumers showed that implementation of the directive was not uniform across categories.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ryanair to send free SMS alerts for flight delays of over 90 mins

Ryanair, Europe's low cost airline, has announced that passengers who experience very rare Ryanair flight delays, of over 90 minutes, will now receive free text message updates to advise them of the likely duration of the delay and their new departure time.
The service, developed in partnership with Sentient, is a new addition to Ryanair's existing email/text and website passenger communications and will be particularly useful during periods of severe disruption such as bad weather, ATC strikes or widespread airspace closures (e.g. volcanic ash).
Ryanair's Stephen McNamara said: "Ryanair delivers Europe's No 1 customer service and our new text alerts system will ensure we stay No 1.  Now passengers who have provided us with complete mobile numbers will receive real-time information if they experience a rare flight delay of over 90 mins.
The latest SITA study found an estimated 95% of airline passengers carry a mobile phone when they travel and our new system will ensure passengers are kept fully informed during periods of mass disruption, such as bad weather, air traffic control strikes or airspace closures."
Sentient's Derek Corcoran said: "Sentient worked closely with Ryanair to design a pan global messaging application to ensure timely and accurate information for passengers, delivering real-time flight information via multi-lingual SMS."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nokia Life Tools: 17M Subscribers, Adding New Agri, Education Services

Nokia is all set to expand its Life Tool Services in the Indian market, offering information related to horticulture, dairy farming and fisheries; The Hindu had reported last week. Nokia Life Tools, which started three years ago as a pilot project in Maharashtra, is now available all over India in local Indian languages with region specific content. We spoke with BV Natesh, Head (Emerging Market Services) Nokia India, about the new offerings and on the adoption of the Life Tools service.
New Services & Content Processing

- Agriculture Pack: Services like information on horticulture, dairy farming and fisheries to Life Tool Services will be introduced progressively over the next 6-9 months. These will be available all across India, as part of the Life Tools Agriculture Premium Pack, and will be priced at Rs 60 per month, Natesh said. Nokia has a dedicated agriculture knowledge desk of 20 people in Bangalore, who aggregate data from various sources, and processes and translate it, for delivery through Life Tools.
"We get weather data from the MET department, local mandi prices, and other information via various media, including the internet and facsimile , which is collated and translated by our knowledge desks, we also have local experts since a lot of information is hyper-local. For example a person living in the hills will not require the same amount of Iodine as a a person living in the coastal regions. Of course, experts at the health desk are medical professionals," says Natesh.
- IGNOU: Natesh informed MediaNama that Nokia will also start piloting IGNOU's English certification course on Life Tools in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, starting this month; depending on the user feedback, the program will be launched pan-India by December. The IGNOU service will include learning and assessment modules, and more courses will be added to the service, depending on feedback.
Content Partners
Nokia has developed a range of partners across private and public enterprises, including local Government departments, NGOs and development agencies, particularly since Life Tools cover a wide range of content, and the company needs to develop and entire ecosystem for content sourcing and delivery. Nokia has around 25 partners for agriculture and health services.
- Private Sector Partners: include entities like Syngenta, ITC eChoupal, Coromandel International, EnableM & Pearson;
- Public Sector Partners: include Government agencies such as Maharashtra State Agri Marketing Board (MSAMB), various state agencies, Rubber and Spices Boards and NGO's such as National Agro Foundation; Kid and Parent and Arogya for Health.
Nokia Life Tools Agriculture service is available across 18 states, in 11 regional languages including Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Oriya and English, on over 20 devices. The basic plan at Rs 30 per month, offers daily weather updates and relevant agriculture-related news, advice and tips.
The premium plan at Rs 60 per month, provides the closest market prices for three crops chosen by the subscriber, as well as weather information, news, advice and tips. The Education service is available across India, and consumers can subscribe to their preferred educational service such as Learn English, General Knowledge or Exam Tips for Rs 30 per month. Health services are also priced at Rs 30/ month.
According to Natesh, the pricing was determined after analyzing user behavior, sources of information and the costs they incur to access them, and also based on the spending patterns of prepaid customers. The pricing comes around to Rs.1-Rs.2 per day, close to the price of a newspaper.
Usage Patterns
Although Natesh did not disclose the number of new customer additions every month, he said that the service has close to 17 million subscribers since it's initial launch. Usage is consistent across geographies, and a large chunk of subscribers have more than one pack activated on their phones. The bread winner in the family uses the phone during the day time, and other members of the family using it later. The service is pre-embedded in around 20 handsets, included in the main menu of the phone, and there's a shortcut key, as well.
Will Nokia Life Tools Ever Launch On Other Phones?
Nokia does not intend to bring Life Tools to other phones or even as a telecom operator service; according to the company, Life Tools require localized language packs which are built into Nokia phones. Also, the company has no plans to make Life Tools available for download on the Nokia (Ovi) Store, though it might use GPRS as a bearer for delivering content in place of SMS, when mobile data becomes more reliable, and mainly for semi-urban use cases, in the future.

Nokia strengthens Life Tool services via SMS in India

People in agriculture, healthcare and education fields to benefit

Further increasing its engagement with the Indian market, Nokia is now focussing on strengthening its utility services called Life Tools that provide information to users on agriculture, healthcare and education. With a "knowledge desk" well set at its Bangalore R&D centre, the Finnish mobile phone manufacturer is planning to add more utility services to help and empower various communities, particularly farmers.

"Nokia Life Tools began as a pilot project three years ago and now it is a potent and successful information tool for Nokia phone users, making a positive impact on the lives of people — be it farmers, women or students. We already have 1.7 crore users of this service…with mobile penetration increasing fast, particularly in rural and semi-urban areas, we hope to connect 70 per cent of Indians through Life Tools," Nokia India Head (Emerging Markets Services) B. V. Natesh told this correspondent.

"We started with providing information to farmers in Maharashtra on topics related to sowing and care of crops, weather forecast and prices in the local wholesale market. Now this service is available pan-India, with information available in local languages with local contents.

"We have a team of dedicated agriculture professionals doing research and providing information, besides 26 specific partnerships for in-depth knowledge. We now plan to provide information related to horticulture, dairy farming and fisheries to add to the income of Indian farmers," Mr. Natesh said.

Two other major services being offered under Nokia Service Tools are related to education and healthcare. "We started healthcare service three months ago focussing mainly on lifestyle management and diseases that Indians are more prone to, like diabetes, heart ailments and respiratory problems. We are also providing information to women that are related to pregnancy and child care. All the information being given is purely preventive in nature and not diagnostic…we have got tremendous response," he said.

Referring to special focus of Nokia Life Tools on education, Mr. Natesh said besides giving lessons on general knowledge and English, they had tied up with the Indira Gandhi National Open University for their English certificate course, where Nokia would provide study reinforcement module on its Life Tools platform for students enrolling in the course.


"We are in talks with IGNOU to introduce such modules for their other regular courses too," he added.

Giving details about how the Life Tools service works, Mr. Natesh said it comes pre-loaded with almost all Nokia handsets, starting at Rs.1,200.

"A user just needs to pay Rs.30 per month for each service and he gets all useful information through SMS. We also provide need-based service where Rs.3 is charged per SMS,'' Mr. Natesh added.

Keywords: NokiaLife Toolsagriculture, healthcare and education

An SMS in Time Saves Farmers the Monsoon Blues

Mobile-based advisory services Iffco Kisan Sanchar, Nokia Life Tools and Reuters Market Light help farmers take the right decisions and avoid crop losses

  Atul Bharve, a farmer from Maharashtra's Marathwada district, says a mobile phone message saved him from crop losses this year. When monsoon was delayed, he sent an SMS to Nokia Life Tools — a text message-based information service — seeking advice on what to cultivate and was promptly advised to focus on fodder. "When the rains didn't arrive in early June, I panicked. But that crucial SMS from Nokia was a lifeline of sorts for my family," says Bharve. 

Kapil Mehta, a traditional paddy farmer from Sabakantha district in northern Gujarat, took up sorghum cultivation, which requires less water, this season in line with a voice message advisory from Iffco Kisan Sanchar, a joint venture between mobile carrier Bharti Airtel and fertiliser firm Iffco. 
If India avoids a farming disaster of huge crop losses due to deficient monsoon rains this year, part of its credit goes to specialised mobile-based adviso
ry services such as Iffco Kisan Sanchar, Nokia Life Tools and Reuters Market Light, which are helping millions of farmers across the country take the right decisions. 
"Our database confirms that nearly 12 lakh farmers are listening to our voice messages everyday...many are monsoonrelated," says S Srinivasan, CEO of Iffco Kisan Sanchar. 
Finnish mobile handset maker Nokia says nearly 30 million customers subscribe to its Nokia Life Tools service and many of them are farmers. Reuters Market Light, an initiative of news and information firm Thomson Reuters to provide personalised agricultural information through text messages in local languages to farmers for . 999 a year, boasts of one million unique subscribers. 
These service providers are now working overtime to respond to a deluge in demand due to delayed monsoon. And their volumes are unlikely to flag any time soon as the Met office has predicted a 15-20% shortfall in rains in early August. "Many farmers in Maharashtra have 
opted for these services and have benefited," says Umakant Nangat, Maharashtra's commissioner of agriculture. Experts believe mobile-based farmer advisory providers will play an increasingly larger role in coming years. 
Swapan Kumar Dutta, deputy director general (crop science) of Indian Council 
of Agricultural Research, says these service providers can create alerts about crops that require less water if they get a wind of the monsoon pattern in advance. "It's easier for them to play a larger role as they are in direct touch with rural subscribers. Service providers also need to collaborate more with agri-scientists," he says. 
Companies say they are already at it. 
Iffco Kisan Sanchar, which has 13 Kisan Call Centres in different parts of the country, has thrashed out contingency plans in consultation with the state Agriculture Department & Research Organi
sation to assist farmers impacted by the delayed monsoon. "We've urged our subscribers to adopt moisture conservation practices and explore ways to improve water utilisation," CEO Srinivasan says. BV Natesh, director (emerging markets services) at Nokia Life Tools, says, "Since the Indian farmer now faces significant monsoon-related challenges, we've been providing our subscribers with the best practices and tips on water and soil moisture conservation, alternative crop selection in low rainfall scenarios and five-day weather forecasts." 
Nokia Life provides personalised text messages on 270 commodities in 12 languages across 22 states in 12 languages and can be accessed by farmers on a daily basis. Reuters Market Light Managing Director Amit Mehra says, "Our experts have developed contingency plans at state and district levels by sourcing inputs from leading agri-research institutions." Experts say that these service providers can coach farmers on drought-resistant seed variants besides issuing customised advisories on shifting crop patterns in rainfall deficit zones. But they also need 
superior infrastructure to source and disseminate accurate farming tips down to the taluka level. Mohini Mohan Misra, national secretary of leading farmers organisation Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, says, "The services offered by Nokia Life Tools and IKSL can be helpful amid the ongoing rainfall deficit. But they must beef up infrastructure to source more accurate information on 127 agro-climatic zones." 
A recent World Bank report notes that mobile-based access to price information has improved an average farmer's income by up to 24%. It adds that the most common usage of text messaging in the context of agriculture includes access to price information, crop disease and meteorological information. 

PERSONAL TOUCH: Providing agri information through SMSes in local languages

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cash becomes mobile

This week, Starbucks joined forces with Square, a technology start-up that lets you pay for things with a smartphone. Coming from a company whose cafes seem to be on every corner, that's a powerful endorsement. Does that mean your phone will soon replace your wallet? 

    That's hardly certain, because any company offering mobile payments faces a big challenge: convincing people that paying with a phone is safer and more convenient than using cash or a credit card. 
    But the partnership will clearly give a lot more exposure to Square, a company in San Francisco with about 300 employees, and to the idea of mobile payments in general. 
    Square isn't yet near getting the big numbers it needs to become a mainstream replacement for the wallet. To date it has 75,000 merchants using its technology to accept payments. It refuses to disclose the number of consumers using its Pay With Square app, presumably because there aren't enough to brag about. 
    "The biggest friction has been places to pay," said Jack Dorsey, the founder of Square, in an interview. He said that with so many different companies trying to get a piece of 
the market, paying with a phone has been a "fragmented" experience. But the Starbucks partnership should widen the use of Square. 
    Indeed, businesses of all kinds, including big companies like Google, Microsoft and Sprint and small start-ups like GoPago and Scvngr, are hoping to profit from mobile payments — if only they can figure out what kind of system appeals to consumers and merchants. 
    Google has developed a mobile wallet app that uses a technology called near-field communication, which allows a phone to communicate wirelessly with a nearby cash register. GoPago has an app that lets customers place an order before arriving in a store; it shows up on a tablet on the merchant's counter. 
    Starbucks has already been accepting mobile payments through its own bar code app. With one million app transactions a week, Starbucks is the most successful example of mobile payments to date, according to Denee Carrington, an analyst at the research firm Forrester. She said the partnership should make Square the biggest player in mobile payments. 
    "Now in addition to the neighbourhood coffee shop, they'll be at every corner of New York City." NYT NEWS SERVICE

Saturday, August 4, 2012


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Why is SMS 160 characters?

SMS system is designed for short bursts of data services such as numerical pages. To avoid overloading the system over the standard forward and reply operation, the inventors of SMS agreed on a maximum 160-character size of the message. 160 characters, but is not fixed. Limitation of extension may vary depending on network, phone model and wireless service provider. Some phones do not always allow time to write a 160 character limit has been reached. You must send the message before continuing. However, a number of services will automatically break any message that is sent in packets of 160 characters or less. So, you can write and send a long message, but will be delivered as several messages

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Friday, August 3, 2012

500 fine for pesky SMSs?

New Delhi: There may be some relief from pesky text messages, with the telecom regulator on Friday proposing a penalty on unregistered telemarketers. Also, steps are under way to clamp down on unwanted calls. 

    In a consultation paper, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has suggested that unregistered telemarketers sending unsolicited commercial communication be charged Rs 500 per message. After 10 such instances are observed, the phone connection will be cut. 
    All that mobile users are required to do is forward the message from an unregistered telemarketer to a dedica
ted number—1909. Action will be initiated against the sender. Web and email-based complaint registration is also on the cards. The plan is to get access providers to put in place a system that blocks the delivery of unsolicited SMSs that carry similar signatures and come from a number that sends more than a specified number of SMSs every hour. Even banks or travel portals that send SMSs on transactions will have to hire registered telemarketers. 
    In recent months, mobile users have again been flooded with unsolicited messages, some of which are from unregistered telemarketers who use 10-digit numbers. 
Pesky SMSes: 'Can't encroach upon a person's privacy & time' 
New Delhi: The telecom regulator is drawing up plans to slam the brakes on unsolicited SMSs. A senior officer in Trai said a part of the reason for the sudden rise in the number of such messages was a high court order lifting the ceiling of 200 text messages a day, a decision which the regulator has decided to appeal against in the Supreme Court. 
    "While everyone has a right to free speech, no one has a right to encroach upon anyone's privacy and time," the official said. Although the regulator and the government had moved from the system of Do-Not Call register a few years ago, it was revamped last September with mobile users given the option to register to fully block or partially block pesky messages. 

    Besides, only registered telemarketers could call. While the messages did stop, they resumed within a few days as marketers discovered a loophole and started routing messages from other countries. 
    The Trai official, however, said the regulator had plugged the gap, referred to as modem farming, as it had asked service providers to scrub bulk messages from foreign shores.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

There’s a Thriving Online Grey Mkt for US Brands

While India's politicians dither over rules allowing foreign retailers into the country, some online stores are already selling discounted clothing from companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch Co that have yet to officially enter the market. 
Homegrown start-ups including, and HomeShop 18 - which is eyeing a US initial public offering - are introducing India's growing middle class to mid-market US brands, at discounts of more than 50%. Reuters interviewed nearly two dozen online retailers, distributors and officials from US and Indian firms to try to determine how some of the hottest Western clothing brands, including Abercrombie, American Eagle Outfitters Inc and Aeropostale Inc, ended up for sale on these websites. 
None of these US chains have opened stores in India, and they have no official licensees. Abercrombie and American Eagle said Indian websites were not authorised to sell their products. "Our brands do not have any authorised third party websites anywhere in the world; all of our stores and official websites are owned and operated by A&F directly - we do not license or franchise our front-line sales," Abercrombie said. A unit of online daily deal company Groupon 
Inc in India stopped offering some Abercrombie and American Eagle clothing in July following questions by Reuters. 
Some of the clothing available on Indian websites found its way through distributors in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US who buy off-season or overstocked merchandise and sell it in countries where they hope demand is higher. In other instances, online retailers bought from local manufacturers who supply the global brands. Those manufacturers are not supposed to sell apparel with namebrand labels, two Indian lawyers said. 
"What will happen is when these (foreign) brands eventually decide to come to India they will blacklist these sites," said Darshan Mehta, chief executive of Reliance Brands, one of India's biggest retailers of foreign brands and controlled by its richest man, Mukesh Ambani. 
For clothing companies waiting to get into India, where a complex set of rules limits foreign investment, the online retailers can provide a useful consumer testing ground. But once foreign companies launch their own business in India they become proactive in stopping unauthorized sales and are quick to take legal action to shut down those channels. 

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