In India, over 95 percent of mobile phone users are prepaid subscribers, and telecom operators are constantly revising their tariff plans with improved benefits to attract new subscribers. The “lifetime free incoming” calls facility was introduced a decade ago, where subscribers paid around Rs 999 to avail the service. To continue with the service and free incoming calls, users were required to do a minimum recharge of at least Rs 10 in six months. But that benefit is about to end soon as Indian telecom operators have recently made major changes to their tariff plans.
There is no doubt that Reliance Jio has completely revolutionized the telecom sector, and even introduced the concept of dirt cheap data, and unlimited free local and national voice calls. Essentially, users on Jio network get free incoming and outgoing calls, and they are only charged for data, and let’s say, the validity. It has been a welcome move by users, especially with the average data consumption rising at a rapid pace.
But, the move has definitely affected the earnings of telecom firms. The crisis situation in the telecom sector has also resulted in the merger of Idea Cellular and Vodafone. Now, telcos have been looking for ways to boost their Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). One way to do this is to actually start charging users for incoming calls.
The bold step
Well, being charged for incoming calls would come as a shock, but that doesn’t mean you will be charged per minute for an incoming call. Telecom companies have come up with minimum recharge plans starting at Rs 35 and 28 days validity. There are other plans priced at Rs 65 and 95 as well, and these plans are offered by Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular. Reliance Jio also has an affordable plan priced at Rs 98 with 28 days validity.
Essentially, recharging with these minimum prepaid plans would ensure that you continue getting mobile services, especially incoming calls. The Rs 35 plan also includes talk time of Rs 26 and 100MB data, which should be good enough for those who don’t use data, and make many outgoing calls.
Who will be affected by this move?
Users, especially in rural areas, who own mobile phones only for incoming calls are likely to be affected. These are the users who hardly make calls or use data, or even make recharges. So, even a minimum recharge of Rs 10 that offers a talk time of Rs 7, won’t help as failing to make a minimum recharge of Rs 35 would bar incoming calls after a certain period.
What implications the move will have on consumers who have been used to freebies for years remains to be seen. Also, will this actually help telecom operators boost their ARPUs? Time will tell, and we will keep tracking the developments in this field.