Many migrate to instant messaging apps due to operators’ tiff

For a generation that swears by the manifold joys of SMS, the recent breakdown in the service due to a dispute between three mobile networks has been a bitter blow.

Through a series of crowd-sourced reactions – using The Hindu's official Twitter handles (@thehindu and @the_hindu) – and interviews, this correspondent tried to understand, especially from the young mobile users, just how the SMS blockade that Aircel faces due to a fee dispute with Airtel and Vodafone affected them.

For many young people, the 160-character SMS is puny only in size. Most of them prefer to have conversations on the go. Dheeraj Khalgutkar (@meetdheeraj) said he currently had exams and not having SMS was a drain on his time. “No instant solutions to doubts. Calls? They end up long with chats and longer bills.”

Sometimes, nothing soothes a tough day than some small talk with loved ones. Sukanya Ramanujan from Chennai, tweeting from @sramanujan, said she could not longer text her mother. “Phone needs to be upgraded so that Whatsapp (instant messaging App) can be used. But that’s expensive.”

Then there are those excuse-mongers who prefer the SMS to text their bosses about mystery ailments that led to that sudden leave from work. "It is tough to play hookey over a voice call," one distressed IT employee informed us.

Though a number of youngsters with smartphones have quickly moved their messaging to instant messaging Applications (Apps) like Viber and Whatsapp, a few are also critical of the telecom companies having dragged the consumers into their spat. R. Vinod (@iamvinodr) said: “This SMS blockade has ruined my texting passion. The telecom companies blaming each other even worse.”

Busy professionals - like senior doctors and advocates - have always prefered SMSs over voice calls, as a means avoid disturbance. Benedict Gnaniah said he sorely missed SMS service on Thursday evening when he tried to help an accident victim. “I was at home trying to get an ambulance organised for the victim. An important SMS was to reach me giving the doctor’s number and I did not receive it thanks to this mindless spat.”

The SMS link between Aircel and Vodafone was restored based on a TDSAT order on November 23 (Friday) since late night that day. The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal had ordered Aircel to pay 5 paisa per SMS and posted further hearing on the case to January 10. The SMS link between Aircel and Airtel continues to hang fire, as the issue is pending before the Supreme Court.

This article has been updated with additional inputs.

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