SPECIAL REPORT: PHONECARDS - COUNTERING THE MOBILE THREAT.Despite the widespread adoption of the mobile and the doubling of callbox charges, phonecards are holding their own
by RALPH ADAM, 09 October 2000, 12:00am
SPECIAL REPORT: PHONECARDS -COUNTERING THE MOBILE THREAT.Despite the widespread adoption of themobile and the doubling of callbox charges,phonecards are holding their own
At the end of August, British Telecom announced the doubling of charges from call boxes.According to Malcolm Newing, BT Payphones director, the hike came as result of increasingcompetition, particularly from pre-pay mobiles, and was intended to safeguard the payphoneservice's future.'The mobile phone has completely changed the way people communicate away from home or office, and now payphones are used for only six per cent of those calls,' said Newing. It'sobvious - and natural - that BT perceives the mobile telephone market as a threat, yet thesemisgivings are colouring promoters' perceptions of the promotional phonecard as an effectivemechanic.The contention centres partly on fears that the phenomenal take-up of mobiles over the pastfew years will make telephone-booth cards an irrelevance.And, as mobiles carry an increasing range of functions such as voice-mail, internet access ande-commerce capability, they are beginning to be perceived as a 'must-have', spanning allgenerations.Yet there is no evidence that the days of the phonecard are numbered; on the contrary, a 1999survey by the telecoms regulator, Oftel, into customer perceptions of competition in theinternational calling market, found 64 per cent awareness of phonecards. While mobile phones are seen as sexy, cards have become an everyday essential. The two can and do co-exist, meeting different needs, and the general consensus is that phonecards provideconvenience, and a perception of value.According to John Hart, sales manager at phonecard manufacturer Nitecrest: 'The phonecardmarket is going from strength to strength, not just here but also in the US, where volume isrising all the time.'