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SMS ban: Telcos in J&K are lovin' it

Sources told ET that the SMS ban can be lifted only after the state government or any of the three operators in the state move an application. But nobody is ready.

, ET Bureau|
Oct 25, 2008, 03.08 AM IST
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SRINAGAR: Cellular operators in J&K have been suffering losses for the past few months as the government imposed a temporary ban on short-massaging service (SMS) when Amarnath land agitation was at its peak in Jammu. Though the situation is almost normal in J&K, the ban stays. But, are the telcos bothered?

Sources told ET that the ban can be lifted only after the state government or any of the three operators in the state move an application. But nobody is ready. Operators say it is the prerogative of the state government and the entire official machinery is now preoccupied with election preparation.

���Why should operators apply for lifting the ban?��� asked Yasir Ahmad, who uses connections of both the services. ���It makes a huge business sense when instead of sending an SMS, you are forced to make a call.��� Actually, it does.

J&K is a huge market. At the end of September, there were over 25 lakh users���more than a quarter of the population enumerated in 2001. Of this, 49.84% market is with Bharti Airtel, 33.22% with BSNL and the remaining 16.93% with Aircel. Being talkative offers cellular operators the best average revenue per unit. The growth is massive. Against a tariff collection of Rs 493.35 crore in 2006-07, sources in the industry told ET that the three operators pocketed Rs 800.31 crore in 2007-08.

Almost a quarter of J&K���s population is using mobile that makes it one of the fastest-growing non-metro places with high-mobile penetration. ���Losses are definitely there, but we have been asked not to talk on this subject,��� a senior BSNL officer said.
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