Value added services were never big contributors of Indian mobile operators’ revenue stream. However, apart from wireless internet services which are growing very fast, other services are off late either stagnant or showing negative growth.
The reason is simple; smartphones today offer amazing options to what was earlier a value added service for operators. For example you don’t need to download wallpapers from operator driven service, you can do so by downloading any picture or creative on to your PC and then to your handset or choose any wallpaper app available for smartphones. Similarly, you don’t need news services, weather update etc from operators, your smartphone keeps you updated all the time. And we are not just talking about smartphones per se, it also includes smart feature phones, you know the ones that support application downloads.
Biggest hit has been the music services, which was and continue to be the biggest source of revenue for mobile operators in the non-voice, non SMS segment.
Let’s have a look at what operators have on offer right now, in terms of pure music (not ringtones and caller ring back tones).
Under its Radio service, Airtel offers 1.5 lakh songs but charges Rs 30 for 30 minutes for a month. And in this you can just stream the song, no downloads included. You also have Airtel Mirchi mobile service that allows you to listen to Radio Mirchi of any city in any city, for which you have to pay Rs 10 for 100 minutes of streaming for a week.
Vodafone offers 1.2 lakh songs collection with Rs 30 for 300 minutes of music streaming in a month.
Reliance Communication too offers several music packs starting from Rs 25 and going up to Rs 250. In Rs 99 it offers unlimited streaming, 100 minutes mobile radio, 10 full tracks, 10 ringtones, and 10 caller ring back tones.
Aircel offers 5 lakh full songs for Rs 30 for a month with unlimited streaming; in which you can also download five songs in a month for free. For Rs 20, Aircel is offering unlimited streaming for 15 days and you can also download three tracks for free. Also, there is a Rs 10 pack for which you can stream unlimited songs for seven days and can download 1 song.
Idea and Tata Docomo do not have pure music streaming services, however Idea offers something similar to Airtel Mirchi mobile service with Big FM. Tata Docomo too offers a similar service.
There are several music apps like Gaana.com, Saavn, and Dhingana. You can access these services for free and can stream unlimited songs without having to spend even a penny. However you will have to incur data charges in the process, which is not required in case of operator driven music services. Most of the operators today offer 2 GB of 2G data for Rs 199 which you can choose to stream unlimited songs using these apps.
All these music apps have intelligence to identify a slow network and tweak the bit rate of songs to make them lighter and therefore playable even on slow 2G network., However do remember to subscribe to one of the data packs else these seemingly free service will cost you a bomb.
The best part is that many of these apps work with all smartphone operating systems like iOS, Blackberry, Android, and Windows Phone and also with feature phones, and you can check out Getjar.com and mobango.com for music streaming services for your feature phone.
Nokia and Sony are two handset vendors who are currently offering a large library of songs, which can be used to download DRM free (you can transfer such songs) music. And currently both these handset vendors are offering it for free for six months from the date of purchase of the handset.
However right not it the pricing of these services have not been announced to know what will be the charges after that. Others like Samsung and HTC are also likely to launch their own services too.