Can BSNL’s app store increase subscriber stickiness?


State-owned BSNL has finally joined private mobile
operators in India to launch its own Apps Store, offering over 4,500 free and
paid mobile apps to its 2G and 3G subscribers is accessible over GPRS through
its BSNL Live homepage. The apps are divided under 25 categories such as
entertainment, finance, games, news, sports, and also include regional apps in
local languages.


A unique feature of BSNL’s app store is that it
will only display apps that are compatible with the customer’s handset, with
Java-based apps enjoying the widest compatibility, including low-end feature


While paid apps start at Rs 8 (16¢), the store also
offers free apps and features subscription-based apps and services with weekly
and monthly renewal options. In addition, any purchases made from BSNL’s Apps
Store will automatically be added to the monthly bill of postpaid users or
immediately deducted from the prepaid balance of prepaid users. Charges for
regular browsing and downloading, apart from the actual app store services are
also applicable.


In recent months, BSNL has introduced a number of
attractive schemes, tariff discounts and new products to lure customers to its
network. From being criticized for not making good on its 3G advantage, BSNL
now claims that it is the number one 3G
operator in the country with over 3 million subscribers. In July, BSNL also
launched VVoIP
video calls, providing for very cheap IP to IP calls within India, and
non-video cheap VoIP calls to international destinations. At a time when most
leading service providers increased voice and data tariffs, BSNL and MTNL cut
down their voice tariffs.


However, it seems that all these schemes and products are
yet to aid BSNL in building a loyal customer base, due to many QoS issues,
dropped calls, and connectivity issues. Most recently, BSNL threatened to call
off a 15-million line GSM tender, and it was also denied aid from the USOF Fund
to roll out large-scale broadband in rural areas, as it had failed to roll out
these services efficiently.  In Q1, BSNL once again lost second place to Vodafone, to become India’s third-largest
operator, according to revenues pegged at Rs 290,013 million, as compared to Rs
300,240 million last year.


However, the government’s recent plan to merge BSNL,
MTNL, C-DoT, ITI AND TCIL to ensure more operational efficiency among the
currently loss-making PSUs, may spell some hope for BSNL, although the previous
attempts of a merger between BSNL and MTNL
have failed twice.


By Beryl M
[email protected]