In order to push unlimited prepaid plans, top telcos- Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea seem to have taken yet another major step. After removing the talk time plans, telcos are now barring outgoing and incoming calling facility on prepaid numbers. According to the information we have, Airtel and Vodafone Idea started restricting its users from making outgoing voice calls without an unlimited prepaid pack. In a country like India, where the value for money and affordability is a major decision maker for product pricing, it’s no surprise that around 95% of mobile phone users prefer prepaid plans over postpaid plans. But this move from the country's top two telecom operators is coming as a surprise to the users, but on the other hand, telcos are looking to improve their ARPU.
The prepaid plans became extremely popular around a decade ago when telcos introduced the lifetime free incoming calling facility, but things are taking a new turn now as the service providers have been incurring losses for more than two years now. Much of this change can be credited to Reliance Jio; the Mukesh Ambani led telco which charges mostly for data and ships free unlimited calling.
The significant charges in Reliance Jio’s plans are for data and validity. No wonder, attracted by this offering from Reliance Jio, subscribers signed up for Jio SIMs by the masses. The other telcos also followed suit, and they also started shipping combo plans for their subscribers. However, the result of this has been falling revenues for the telcos. While customers are now enjoying more data, free calling and much more benefits, the average revenue per user for telecom companies has undoubtedly taken a big hit. Keeping this in mind, it is entirely possible that the telecom operators might decide to turn things around for increasing their ARPU by charging subscribers for incoming calls.
What's the Actual Matter?
Since the last few days, we have been witnessing a lot of comments from our readers stating that they are receiving constant messages from their service provider regarding the outgoing voice calling expiry. According to the information we have, users will not be able to make outgoing voice calls starting from the 15th day after the expiry of 'Unlimited Combo Pack.' Yes, we're referring to the unlimited plans here which include Rs 199, Rs 209, Rs 249, Rs 399 and so on. While the outgoing calling will be stopped on the 15th day, incoming voice calls will be stopped on the 30th day. Having said that, here's the actual twist: you won't be able to make unlimited voice calls even if you've Rs 10,000 talk time balance in your account. All telcos need is you to perform an unlimited pack recharge. Sort of Reliance Jio's style, right?
That being said, we're not sure on this information, but I have gone through several reports on the web. Some Airtel users state that the telco has made this move following a guideline from Trai, but again, we're not sure regarding this move.
Very recently, Airtel launched Smart Recharge plans and Vodafone Idea introduced Active Recharges starting at Rs 35 and going all the way to Rs 245. These recharges bundle talk time, data and rate cutter benefits. But here's a twist. These Active Recharge plans won't avail you outgoing and incoming calling benefit. Here's an example: One of my family member on Vodafone network with Rs 145 Active Recharge plan is unable to make outgoing voice calls, despite having Rs 126 talk time benefit in the account. We approached Vodafone India's team regarding the matter and will update this post once they get back to us.
Rural Subscribers to Be Affected the Most
Another thing to be kept in mind is who will be affected by this new charging scheme of the telecom operators. Given that the subscribers in rural areas are the ones who do not use data or outgoing calls and keep their mobile phones only for incoming calls; thus not recharging their numbers with data packs or combo offerings will mean they will be barred from receiving incoming calls. Now the subscribers will be forced to shell out Rs 35 every 28 days so that they can take up incoming calls, but as mentioned above, we're not sure whether this work or not.
Also, we expect that there is going to be a slight reluctance from other mainstream users as well since the telcos have been providing freebies to the subscribers for long now. With this new charging scheme, the subscribers will be forced to shell out a little bit more, however, this move will also give a slight bump to telcos’ ARPU as well.