Mobile value added services for rural areas need content

Written by Nikita Upadhyay | Nikita Upadhyay | Mumbai | Updated: Feb 23 2009, 05:56am hrs
The low awareness of value added services restricted the growth of value added services in rural India, says a report.

These rural areas, referred to as bottom of the pyramid (BOP), have a mere 10% awareness of the mobile voting applications (competitions, real time polling, live participation in TV/radio programmes, etc).

Lirneasia, which carried out the study, is a regional information and communication technology (ICT) policy and regulation capacity-building organisation active across the Asia Pacific region.

Despite the huge network roll-out in rural areas and the intense low tariff war amongst the operators the study showed the usage of value added services in rural areas to just 1%.

Indian BOP is still in the mobile 1.0 mode using mainly voice and missed calls functionality. Messaging is being used by only a third of the BOP population. Mobile payment and government services use is almost non-existent, said Rohan Samarajiva, chairman and CEO, Lirneasia. The report states that in India 27% of the rural mobile owners at the BOP got connected in the year 2008 compared to the 19% urban mobile owners. Apart from voice, most use their mobiles for missed calls, while some use it for messaging and checking balances. These findings could come as a dampener to the aspirations of telecom companies like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Vodafone and Idea Cellular that plan to increase their average revenue per user (ARPUs) by introducing mobile marketing or innovative VAS in the rural areas.

The research highlighted that the rural prepaid mobile owners at the Indian BOP travel 20 minutes more to top-up compared to the urban prepaid mobile owners who travel only 12 minutes. As per the research, 37% of BOP mobile owners in India would not consider switching to a cheaper package, which challenges the tariff wars amongst the telecos.

The reason for not changing over to another provider is their willingness to retain the current mobile number. Thus, 40% of those unwilling to switch state display a high demand and acceptance of mobile number portability technology.