Nearly three-fourths of Tamil Nadu’s over five crore cellular phone users have been made pawns in a tug-of- war involving the top three mobile service providers over settlement of inter-connection usage charges for short messaging service (SMS).

On Thursday, Vodafone severed its SMS connectivity with Aircel.

Bharti Airtel snapped its SMS connectivity with Aircel on November 9. Combined, the three service providers account for close to 76 per cent of the market share in the State, according to the latest numbers put up by the Cellular Operators Association of India’s (COAI) official website.

The lack of connectivity has led to confusion among several users who are not aware that their messages are not reaching the intended recipients. Aircel network issued a text advisory to its subscribers on Thursday stating: “SMS to Vodafone and Airtel numbers has been blocked by Vodafone and Airtel. We are trying to resolve this issue on priority. Inconvenience regretted.”

Vodafone’s executives and spokespersons, despite several queries through the day, refused to comment on what the provocation was for the blockade on Thursday.

Aircel has challenged Bharti Airtel in the Supreme Court over its demand for SMS termination charge at the rate of 10 paise per SMS, questioning the logic behind arriving at the fee and also saying that the burden will be too huge to bear and cannot even be transferred on to mobile users.

Stating that the matter was sub judice now, an Aircel spokesperson said: “We are talking to other service providers and hope to resolve the problem at the earliest. The inconvenience caused to users is regretted.”

In the absence of cellular text service, several subscribers have turned to popular instant messaging services such as Whatsapp and Viber that use data networks for communication. Since these apps sync with the mobile number, it becomes easy for users to identify the sender and recipient.

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