MTNL: Ringing In A Raft Of Value-added Services

New Delhi: | Updated: Jan 31 2003, 05:30am hrs
If you suspected that the principal aim of the new calling party pay (CPP) regime is to keep the telecom operators in the black even as the home budget-makers slip in the red, here enters government-owned Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) to infuse some cheer.

Consider the following cases to find your answers:

* A: You dont own a fax-machine, and so too often the critical fax-messages collected by your office peons get misplaced. Or you are at one of your half-a-dozen offices in the town/ country and would like to receive the fax anywhere anytime you want it. Are you dreaming of a personal fax with a 24-hours delivery assistant

* B: You dont own a personal computer (PC) nor have a round-the-clock connection of Internet to access your e-mails. Or, you have a PC with internet connection but cant afford a personal secretary to read out the e-mail to you while you try relaxing following a power-lunch. How about having your e-mails read out via your basic telephone

* C: You are a bachelor and dont own a fixed telephone connection nor a cellular phone and your neighbours display irritation everytime they have to convey a telephonic message to you. Or, you have a telephone line but everytime your good-for-nothing boy-friend trings you, your Mas blood-pressure shoots up. Are you wishing, you had a personal number by which you can access and be accessed anywhere anytime

MTNL is now saying that it has found answers to all potential A, B, and C customers: it is close to launching a raft of novel products and services in the next two weeks to a month. The new services include: Virtual Telephony and Virtual Fax under MTNLs Voice Mail System; and mtnlmail (e-mail via telephone service).

According to an MTNL source, Virtual Fax is expected to be priced at Rs 25 a month, and Virtual Phone Rs 50 a month (or Rs 300 for six months). Pricing for mtnlmail is still being worked out.

A high-ranking MTNL official declined to confirm the pricing but indicated that the new products would be launched before the fiscal-ending March 31, 2003.

The new launches will provide MTNL additional stream of revenue. However, analysts note that the telecom giant has so far not been able to sell its value-added services successfully and that many of its paid services are being offered for free currently.

MTNLs Virtual Fax will allow a customer to receive his fax messages in his personal fax mailbox which he can retrieve on any fax machine anywhere.

Under Virtual Telephony, one can buy a personal telephone number from MTNL even if he doesnt have a physical telephone line. Here a subscriber will be given a particular mailbox number where his messages will be stored. The stored messagesat any time only 20 messages can be storedcan be retrieved from any working telephone line by entering a pass-code.

The telecom firms another offering, mtnlmail is designed as an innovative mail service based on text-to-speech conversion and voice-command recognition. According to MTNL, It will convert e-mails of any length with Text, Microsoft Word and HTML attachments into voice, enabling you to listen to them on your phone or cellular phone. mtnlmails technology will allow MTNL customers to SMS to mobile phones from landline phones; send voice messages of up to two-minutes duration; have mail message read out over phone; get SMS alerts for new mails when mtnlmail box reaches 90 per cent of its allotted size; forward mail to any local fax; and even access mails through its site

Says an MTNL source, The initial pricing is yet to be finalised. Weve made many of our value-added services like call transfer facility free; reduced rates for caller line identification from Rs 50 to Rs 20 a month; and maintain voice mail facility as a free service for existing MTNL users.

Will MTNLs new offerings keep the competition on its toes Analysts view MTNLs proposed product offerings with a measure of scepticism. Says IDC head (Internet Communications and Convergence Research) V Shekhar Avasthy: Technology is easily replicable, human-touch is not.

Mr Avasthy adds: They (MTNL) have to first of all ensure a basic quality of landline service before they venture into all these activities (high-end products).

If only MTNL takes note of such concerns, will its new upscale services send consumers pulse racing