The telecom sector in India has seen some big changes in the past couple of years. Reliance Jio’s entry marked the beginning of nearly free outgoing calls and dirt-cheap data. And with such fierce competition, incumbent operators like Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea Cellular had to reduce their tariff plans to give Jio a tough fight. But these cheaper tariffs are hurting the ARPUs (average revenue per user) of telcos.
As a result, we have seen big entities like Vodafone and Idea Cellular go for a merger, and the same has been the case with Airtel and Tata Docomo. Now, to boost the ARPUs telcos have done away with talk time top-up recharges, and have instead introduced minimum combo recharge plans. There are also a lot of dual-SIM smartphone users, who just have a secondary connection for incoming calls, and ARPU generated from them is around Rs 10 in about six months.
Then there are users who have been on 2G network when using feature phones, and not willing to upgrade to 4G-enabled smartphones. These are the ones who just have a mobile connection for incoming calls. Telecom operators want to weed out such users, and move them to a monthly plan with minimum recharge value, and thus boost their ARPUs. How does this affect you, and why is it important to know this? Let us clarify.
No more “lifetime free incoming” facility
Back in 2004, telcos introduced the Rs 999 prepaid recharge plan with the promise of “lifetime free incoming”. The offer was simple, pay a certain amount, and do away from the worries of monthly recharge. If you are the one who doesn’t make outgoing calls, use mobile data or send messages, and just want a mobile connection to stay connected, this plan was for you.
In case you want to make outgoing calls, send SMS or use data, do a top-up with plans that offer talk time, and you are good to go, charged as per base tariff. In order to keep the number active though, one had to make a top-up recharge of at least Rs 10 in six months (180 days). But now, with data getting cheaper, and outgoing calls also getting nearly free, telecom operators cannot make revenues using this model. As a result, you have minimum monthly prepaid recharge plans.
A look at minimum recharge plans under Rs 100
The good thing is, all incumbent telcos, Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Tata Docomo have similarly priced minimum prepaid recharge combo plans. The cheapest plan is priced at Rs 35. So if you want to continue with your prepaid mobile connection, you need to at least recharge with Rs 35. The validity of this plan is 28 days, meaning, after every 28 days, you need to pay Rs 35 to stay connected.
Under this plan, users will get a talk time of roughly Rs 26, 100MB of 2G/3G/4G data, and outgoing calls (local and STD) will be charged as per base tariff. Tata Docomo charges 2.5 paise per second, whereas Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular charges 1 paisa per second, or 60 paise per minute, depending on the circle.
The next plan is priced at Rs 65, which offers talk time of Rs 55, and outgoing calls at 1 paisa per second. The plan also offers 200MB data. The last plan is priced at Rs 95, where users get full talk time of Rs 95, 500MB of data, and outgoing calls are charged at 30 paise per minute.
The “validity” fine print
All said and done, cheap data and validity is fine, but the bigger picture lies in the fine print, something that not many are talking about. What happens if you fail to make a recharge after 28 days? Simple, you need to make another recharge to continue with the services.
So, here’s how it works. Say you make a minimum recharge of Rs 35 on December 1, 2018. You get 28 days validity, which means up to December 28. Starting December 29, your outgoing calls will be barred, until you don’t recharge again. However, you will still continue getting incoming calls for the next 15 days, that is till January 12, 2019. On January 13, when the 15 days grace period expires, your incoming calls will also be barred until you don’t make a recharge.
Now, let’s say you don’t make any recharge on your mobile number, you will stay subscribed with the telecom operator for another 90 days. This means, a total of 105 days – 15 days after plan expires, and another 90 days of grace period. Lastly, after 105 days, you will lose your number.
But, if you have Rs 20 balance in your account, it will be deducted, and the validity will be extended by another 30 days, making it a total of 135 days. If you still fail to recharge after 135 days, you will lose your number, and there will be no option to retain it further.