Years ago, when mobile phones were the gadgets of the well heeled in other parts of the country, Kerala's fishermen brilliantly used them to negotiate price for their catch, and showed the world how ingenious use of technology can bring benefits to the grass roots level.
As years go by, mobile phones have become the common man's toy, Keralites continue to be as tech-savvy as ever, vigorously exploring the latest mobile phone technologies.
Mobile phone operators in the State say that the use of value-added services such as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) are constantly on the rise in Kerala. The drastic fall in the price of handsets and service charges, coupled with the overall awareness of such features are fuelling the growth.
Apart from GPRS and EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution), which provide for high bandwidth data transfer, the other value-added services are SMS-based and voice-based, such as ring tones, cricket scores, travel information, examination results and astrology, among others.
The higher end of value-added services comprise GPRS and EDG- based offerings. You can send and receive photos and video clips if your phone is GPRS enabled and you are subscribing to GPRS service from your mobile service provider. You can also surf internet using such mobile phones.
According to D. Sathyajith, manager, Marketing of IDEA Mobile Communications Limited, as many as 17,000 subscribers of the company's post-paid services are actively sending multi-media clips using GPRS.
EDGE, which is considered just one step behind the advanced 3G mobile technology, delivers high bandwidth data into mobile phones. For instance, using EDGE-based services, a user can watch live TV on the mobile phone.
An Airtel official said the company has soft-launched EDGE-based services in Kerala but it will gain momentum soon. IDEA also offers EDGE services in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi. Industry estimates have it that nearly one lakh people are using the high-end value-added services in Kerala. Presumably, youngsters are the biggest category using such services.
Prices of GPRS-enabled handsets have come down to about Rs.4,500 while an EDGE-enabled phone is available at Rs. 8,000 to 9,000 onwards.