Paging: Awaiting the Beep



There was no respite from bad news on the paging front for yet another year
in succession. BPL’s exit from paging, at the beginning of the year, was an
indicator of the shape of things to come. Usha Martin Telecom’s license was
terminated because of non-payment of license fee. The overall subscriber base
came down to 5,55,597 from 5,68,020 in 1999-2000, thus showing a negative
growth. DSS and RPG Paging had the distinction of being among the companies to
have actually earned a profit during the FY 2000-01. Total market for paging
services stood at Rs 211 crore during the FY 2000-01.

The Alternatives

Paging Service Providers
 (in terms of Subscribers)

Realizing the desperate need for an alternative revenue stream, most of the
paging companies rushed to corner a pie of the untapped domestic call center
market. Not many, except EasyCall and DSS, did well on the domestic call center
front. RPG Paging also made an attempt to position itself in business process
solutions beyond just messaging through wireless medium to corporate
organizations. Microwave Communication set up its first international call
center in Mumbai. DSS Mobile, with Rs 200 crore of investment, launched its
Mobilink communications channel for various advertisers to promote their
products.

The Failures

The Indian Paging Services Association, unlike its counterparts COAI and ABTO,
never really commanded the support of the entire industry and thereby failed to
push forward its demands to the government in an aggressive manner. Lack of
adequate marketing of services by most companies, was also instrumental in
paging not making much headway. With most cellular companies slashing their
tariff to a record level, interest in paging continues to be on the wane. The
hype and glamour associated with it at the time of launch is no more there.
Moreover, there is also a question mark on the utility of pager.

Two-way paging,
which could be attractive, is still far-off, as companies do not want to sink
more money in the infrastructure.

The Hope

Companies are hoping that the government will come out with a package and
write-off all their dues. Bailout package from the government, revenue-share
from the basic operators, and the still-further relaxation of duty on pagers,
are some ways. The CVD of 16 percent does not make any sense as there is no
manufacturing of pagers in India and all are imported. The paging rental is as
high as Rs 300, thereby reducing the gap with the cellular cash card, making
paging all the more less attractive for the consumers. To make one-way paging
viable, the rental has to go down further to a level of Rs 100. It is hoped that
the discussion between paging companies and basic service providers, which is
under way, comes through, and the issue of revenue sharing on the call to pager
is resolved.

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