Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Missed Calls - Communication Unlimited in India

My friend never used to accept a call from home on his mobile without allowing it to ring at least 3 times. He invariably used to lift it only after the fourth ring, in case the call persisted that long. Curious to get to the bottom of this, I once enquired about this odd habit of his, after having caught him in the act. He replied, "There is an unwritten code between me and my family members. If they give me one ring and cut the line, then it means that they I need to call them back immediately. If they hang up after two rings, it is to remind me of something that I was asked to fetch while returning home. In case, my phone rings exactly thrice, then I am expected to call up home at my leisure."

I stood gaping at his elaborate arrangement of convenience. He not only used to avoid call charges on his part, but also had a reminder service set up for himself. He was another of those millions of Indians for whom Missed Calls are a routine and integral part of their reason to go mobile.

Cellular providers who bear the brunt of these missed calls hesitantly admit to about 25-35% of their traffic comprising of missed calls. For every such missed call, which transcends across networks, the call originating operator needs to pay up to his fellow operators. The same holds true for the call terminating operator, in case he provides Caller Line Identification service. He would have to then trace back to find out who called. He ends up paying all the other networks along the route.

But who cares for etiquette as long as Missed Calls are free ?

Indians use missed calls for a variety of reasons.
  1. It could be to just convey the person back home that one has reached his/her destination safely.
  2. It could also be to indicate to the user to give a call back from the office land line so that neither of them incur any charges. The office turns out to be the loser.
  3. The third chief reason is a by-product of the imbalance in call rates imposed by TRAI(Telecom Regulation Authority of India) on cellular and fixed line rates and the inter connectivity rates. For example if a Spice cellular customer needs to call up his friend on the BSNL(Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) fixed line, he would prefer giving a missed call and let his friend call him instead. This way instead of him shelling out 2 rupees per minute, he induces his friend to shell out 1 rupee. Quite mind boggling, right ? Not for Indians though. These are routine uses for missed calls.
Shameless one may say, technological scourge...have to live with it-another might add, All I can say is that it is Communication Unlimited this way in India.

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