Quality as strategy

Published : Jan 02, 2009 00:00 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launches the 3G services of MTNL in New Delhi on December 11. At right is Communications Minister A. Raja.-KAMAL NARANG

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launches the 3G services of MTNL in New Delhi on December 11. At right is Communications Minister A. Raja.-KAMAL NARANG

MTNL, the second largest Internet service provider in the country, offers a range of services to suit every type of customer.

IN the 22 years since its creation in 1986, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) has emerged as Indias leading and one of Asias largest telecom operating companies. And it is living up to its aim: To remain market leaders in providing world-class telecom and IT-related services and to become a global player.

The company has been in the forefront of technology induction; it has converted 100 per cent of its telephone exchange network into state-of-the-art digital mode.

The public sector company is set to join a handful of operators worldwide in offering 3G mobile telephony services. The government announced the auction of slices of spectrum to offer the high-value services, which give the telecom industry a chance to earn higher revenue per user. MTNL is well-equipped to launch the service much before the private players in the market do that.

Whatever the popular perception about the public sector companys performance, its market share of GSM mobile telephony has improved both in Mumbai and Delhi. This is despite the fact that the companys net profit, at Rs.58,689.1 crore, is down by Rs.9,484.5 crore compared with Rs.6,8173.6 crore the previous year. The company attributes this to tariff revision, but says it is committed to providing services at a cheap rate to its customers.

With the market becoming highly competitive, the public sector enterprise, which enjoyed a monopoly until 15 years ago, has to make a huge effort to survive. By all accounts, MTNL-Delhi has successfully reoriented its policies, strategies and work culture in order to meet the demands of the new situation.

This is no mean achievement if one takes into account the proportion of the population that has adequate purchasing power and the aggressive marketing techniques adopted by private operators. Moreover, until 1986 the telephone system in Delhi was managed by the Telephone Department, with all its inherent limitations.

Today, MTNL can boast of a range of services to suit every type of customer.

Virtual Card Calling (VCC), a card facility that has been introduced, enables users to make a call from any telephone in the MTNL network to any destination, even if subscriber trunk dialling (STD) is barred from the phone.

COSMOS is a facility offered for a group of subscribers. It is mainly useful for residents of group housing societies, who can use their existing connections as a free-of-charge intercom service.

MTNL has been in the forefront of launching new technologies. It has launched Voice over Internet Telephony (VoIP) service all over the world, which provides ISD facility at a very cheap rate to more than 168 countries.

Another bonus for MTNL customers is the affordable tariff. New tariff plans, which include a monthly rental ranging from as low as Rs.100, have been introduced to suit the needs and paying capacities of different segments of the population. Senior citizens are offered a 25 per cent concession on the monthly rental. MTNL also offers a free GSM connection for existing landline subscribers.

For the benefit of corporate firms and groups of telephone users, MTNL offers a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Those using it can have practically all the facilities of an electronic private automatic branch exchange (PABX) without owning it, thereby avoiding maintenance hassles. Segregation of private and official calls is possible and VPN subscribers can have their own private numbering plan.

MTNL will be rolling out the fibre to the home (FTTH) network in order to provide high bandwidth to customers on the reliable media of optical fibre. Modern Next Generation Switch has been planned to be commissioned in 2008-09. This will pave the way for all Internet protocol-based converged network, enabling MTNL to provide new services at cheaper rates.

For professionals and information-providers, MTNL offers the Premium Rate Service (PRM). The user is allotted a service number that information-seekers all over Delhi can access through STD phones, irrespective of their location. The call charges are to be borne by the caller at a rate higher than the normal charge. The revenue is shared between MTNL and the information-provider.

Moving with the times, MTNL became an Internet Service Provider (ISP) in 1996 and is now the second largest ISP in the country. To begin with, access to the Internet was offered through the telephone connection and later through the broadband connection. The developments in broadband technology have ushered in a revolution in accessing the Internet, and MTNL has not lagged behind its competitors in making full use of it. High-speed access to the Internet at an affordable price is now possible on MTNLs broadband based on ADSL2+ technology. There are different tariff plans to suit different segments of users, some as low as Rs.99 a month. There are no uplinking charges also. Recently, MTNL reduced the broadband tariff by 50 per cent to Rs.599 a month for unlimited data download at 256 kbps. Similarly, the tariff for other plans too has been reduced. MTNLs broadband service is quite popular and every day 700 new connections are being provided.

In addition, MTNL has recently introduced wireless broadband service, which provides access to the Internet from public places such as airports and restaurants. Called Wi-Fine, this enables users with Wi-fi-enabled laptops to access the Internet from designated hotspots in different parts of the capital.

In order to make its mobile services attractive, MTNL recently introduced a few value-added facilities. One of these is the Dolphin Vault. A customer can post MMS (multimedia message service) or photographs in an exclusive vault provided to individual customers on registration. Friends authorised by the subscriber and his/her family members can view the photographs instantly on the Internet. A customer can store more than 500 photographs in the vault. In addition, the customer can maintain thousands of contact numbers in a separate folder without bothering about any limitation of handset memory.

The WLL service, which ran into controversy in view of its limited coverage, is going to be launched soon in a revamped form with all-India coverage.

Yet another facility that is on the cards is unstructured supplementary service data (USSD). Subscribers of pre-paid connections can check the balance and recharge accordingly by using this facility, which will work even when the customer is in roaming mode in BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) .

The voice mail service (VMS) is being provided to all mobile phone customers free of monthly rental. Earlier, a monthly rental of Rs.100 was charged. The retrieval charges have been reduced from Rs.2 a minute to 50 paise a minute.

MTNL has gradually come out of its earlier departmental work culture. With the focus now on marketing, it has adopted customer-friendly business practices. Payment of bills has been made easier and hassle-free through the electronic clearance service (ECS), the Internet and by using ABB cards of Indian Overseas Bank. Concessions are offered to attract customers to its Garuda and Dolphin mobile service connections.

Recently, MTNL launched m-commerce services. Various futuristic applications such as bill payment, railway reservation and money transfer are possible using this technology. MTNL has been reviewing its tariffs frequently to stay in line with the growing competition. Some of the plans offered by the company, such as Vidyarathi and Jeevan Saathi, have been quite popular.

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