Hyderabad based SMSCountry, which operates the free SMS service 160by2, has launched free SMS services to Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia & Singapore. This means that registered users can send an SMS to mobile numbers in these countries, without paying the standard International SMS charges. Satya Kalyan Yerramsetti, CEO and Co-founder of SMSCountry has said that the company plans to launch services in other South East Asian markets as well.
By aggregating free SMS services in various countries on an Internet platform, this free SMS service is disrupting the existing format in which International SMS’ are sent. 160by2 has a mobile application as well, which uses both SMS and GPRS to send free SMS’. For Pre-paid users in Kerala, Airtel charges Rs. 3 for an international SMS to the Gulf region, while BSNL charges Rs. 5 for all International SMS’.
A Precedence in Internet Telephony
A precedence exists in case of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP/Internet Telephony), wherein one can make calls to International telephone numbers using services like Skype, at a lower cost. In India, VoIP is not allowed to terminate in a PSTN (Landline or Mobile) network, though the telecom regulator TRAI is pushing that agenda.
Competition & Costs
SMS costs in International markets are higher (we’re assuming that Bulk SMS costs are higher too), so will any one be willing to take on the costs? Other service providers can follow suit, but garnering a user base is quite another task: 160by2 claims to have 4 million registered users (India has over 400 million mobile subscribers), and monetizes with advertisements using 80 characters of each SMS sent. Based on their website, they have a campaign running for Sprite, and also offer mobile classifieds services (though mobile SMS based classifieds are free).
Readers will remember that Indiatimes used to offer free SMS services earlier, though MocoLife, which was launched last year, offered 30 free SMS’ a month. NEA Indo-US and DFJ funded startup MGinger also has launched Free SMS services.