Bharti Airtel has made ring-back tones or caller tunes free for anyone with a monthly plan of Rs 129 or above.
The service used to be charged at Rs 36 per month and lets users specify a song or sound-track of their choice for callers to hear, instead of the regular brr brr.
The move comes as mobile companies have seen a sharp decline in the revenue they are able to generate from traditional value-added services.
VAS, which used to contribute as much as 7-8% of the the total service revenue of mobile operators at one time, have lost much of their appeal for customers due to the emergence of cheap mobile data plans and smart phones.
Today, most of the services that used to be delivered on the VAS platform, such as song downloads, news alerts and image galleries, can be accessed using the data service, without paying anything extra to the operator.
Caller tunes used to be one of the biggest VAS services, generating the lion’s share of profits from VAS services for mobile services companies.
By making caller tunes free, Airtel seems to be aiming to increase the penetration of its Wynk Music app, as ringback service remains free only as long as the subscriber continues to use the Wynk app.
The Wynk app is needed for both activating the service, as well as for keeping it free. Users have to click on the ‘subscribe to Free Hello Tunes’ on their Wynk Music app every 30 days to keep availing the free service.
It is not clear if Airtel will deduct Rs 36 from the main balance in case someone forgets to do the above, or whether the service will be deactivated. The company clarified that the service will get deactivated if the subscriber forgets to click on the ‘Free Hello Tunes’ button every month, and will not be turned into a paid service.
Songs can be selected from languages such as English, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati, Haryanvi, Bhojpuri, Bengali, Oriya, Assamese and Rajasthani.