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.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mobile bills set to rise as operators slash freebies

Mumbai: Your mobile bill is set to rise with two leading telecom companies—Bharti Airtel and Idea—deciding to cut back on promotional offers such as free talk time across a majority of circles, setting the stage for other operators to follow suit. 
    Although the rise would vary depending on the circle and tariff plan for post-paid users or the usage pattern for pre-paid users, in some cases 

the increase in the monthly outgo may be as much as 25%. For instance, if you paid Rs 22 for 50 minutes of talk time as an Airtel customer, you will now get only 40 minutes. That translates into a 25% hike. Also, in some cases, the validity 
of the vouchers has been cut and the threshold of getting full talk time has been increased. So to avail of the full talk time benefit, a pre-paid user may now have to spend Rs 50-60 during a recharge, instead of getting the benefit during a Rs 30 recharge. 
Double gas price: Oil min to govt 
Power tariffs and public transport fares could soon go up across the country. The oil ministry has suggested that the government accept the Rangarajan panel's suggestion to double domestic gas price by linking it to an average of international hub prices and cost of imported liquid gas. P 25 
Bharti, Idea shares rise 3-4% 
Mumbai: Unlike Airtel, which went public with its move to reduce freebies in a bid to improve its margins, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have not confirmed the price changes. Idea managing director Himanshu Kapania TOI that the company would evaluate price corrections after seeing Airtel's moves. 
    Vodafone indicated that it would follow other operators in pruning promotional offers. "We feel these were inevitable given the sharp input and energy price increases in the country. We are studying these moves individually across all our circles. We are inclined to follow to maintain consistency and competitive position though we haven't decided on our precise circle-wise moves," the compa
ny said in a statement. 
    The withdrawal of freebies has been done with the intent to improve the realized rate for the industry which varies between 27 paise per minute for new operators and 43 paise a minute for older players such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone. 

    Stiff competition has forced Indian telecom companies to offer among the cheapest call rates in the world. But they are finding it tough to sustain the tariffs, especially given the huge churn among users who tend to shift to an operator offering the lowest call rates. Portability is easy given that 95% of the mobile users in India are pre-paid customers. In recent months, however, companies have moved to raise rates and focus on profitability instead of blindly acquiring customer base. 
    The last big hike in tariffs happened in mid-2011 when customers had to pay 1.2 paise per second instead of 1 paise per second for voice calls. 

    Following Wednesday's moves, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular shares rose 3-4%. "We have spent on new spectrum, there is one-time fee so we have to evaluate the situation. But a big hike is not possible considering there is still hyper competition and over capacity still exists. Volumes have been impacted earlier when corrections have been implemented," said Idea's Kapania.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Now, pay using mobile phone card reader

Mumbai:The current credit card point of sales (POS) terminals may soon go the way of the 'zip zap' machines that were used by merchants to generate receipts based on credit card impressions until early '90s. The Reserve Bank of India has given its nod for a card reader that costs Rs 1,500 and can, in conjunction with an android phone, do everything that a POS terminal can do.
    The cigarette box sized device, which records signatures on a touch screen from a stylus, does away with charge slips and works as well as any swipe machine. Citi
bank has been the first off the block to adopt this technology developed by Bangalore-based Ezetap Mobile Solutions and has obtained regulatory clearances for its launch. 
    The bank already has several merchants trying out this new technology. Shoppers Stop is testing this out as a queue buster by authorizing salespersons to receive payment on the spot. Others trying out this service are Vodafone and Bajaj Allianz. Citibank is also talking to a fleet cab company for accepting card payments. 
    "Besides replicating the job of the POS terminal, the mobile payment solution can be customized 
to specific business needs and also be integrated with the businesses back-end system, thereby making the process very efficient," said Muge Yuzuak, country head, cards and personal loans, Citibank India. 
    To function, the card reader needs to be connected to an android phone which needs to have the requisite app. The merchant can also fit the mobile with his own app that updates his systems about the payment. 
    Mobile-based card payment systems are by themselves not an innovation. The difference is that while earlier innovations involve a separate platform, this one replicates the card POS and somewhat blurs the lines between cred
it card and mobile payments. 
    "The device complies with the securities standards prescribed by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. We have also got the necessary approvals from the Reserve Bank of India for card transactions through this mobile payment solution," Said Yuzak. 
    In theory, the mobile payments business could be bigger than cards because of the sheer number of mobile phones. However, because of the restrictions on the size and multiple entries required for making a remittances, few merchants accept payments from mobile.

OLD SCHOOL: RBI has cleared a card reader that can, along with an android phone, do everything that a POS terminal can do.

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