The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has rattled the Rs 1,000-crore mobile content service provider industry by asking them and short message service (SMS)-based service providers to use five-digit numbers for short codes as against the existing four-digit codes.
Industry officials say premium content service providers and SMS-based service providers have invested on an average more than Rs 100 crore in developing and building brand awareness for their numbers, and that money may have been wasted.
The DoT has also directed that all the existing five- and six- digit short codes to change to five digits by replacing the first digit or the first two digits as needed and making it mandatory for all such codes to start with the number 'five'. Such short codes are currently being used for services such as downloading of ringtones.
A senior DoT official, who did not wish to be identified, said, "This is an ongoing process of National Numbering Plan. It is an important exercise since we expect a huge jump in mobile subscribers and it would be difficult to allot numbers. We plan to club these SMS-based numbers in a block. We are not removing them and have given six months' time to complete it, while continuing to work on the existing numbers."
According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, the mobile content market in India during 2004-05 was worth about Rs 558 crore and is expected to reach Rs 1,800 crore by 2007. The gaming industry alone is worth about Rs 450 crore.
The music download business is worth another Rs 400 crore. Premium SMS content accounts for about Rs 120 crore, industry officials say.
Content companies such as mauj.com, Star TV and indiagames.com plan to complain to the DoT about the new rules. Vikram Tiwathia, chief information officer, Confederation of Indian Industry, has called a meeting of all affected members.
Samir Bangra, chief operating officer of indiagames.com told Hindustan Times, "The change does create complication for the subscribers in addition to the cost that has been invested in brand building. Indian subscribers who were just getting to adopt this value-added service could find it a deterrent.”