The telecom industry has been flooded with the combo and bundled prepaid plans in the last year only, and now almost every telecom operator has launched combo prepaid plans. However, there is a new wave erupting in the industry as we speak right now. As of late, we are getting to see that a lot of operators are launching voice only or majorly voice-based prepaid plans which offer minimal to no data benefit but ship fantastic voice benefits. It is very curious that with the exponential increase in smartphone users, telcos are still putting in the work to launch voice-based plans.
I can speak from my personal experience that voice only data plans seem to be of no use for smartphone users who are now addicted to data. Ranging from simple messaging apps to day to day activities data has become a big part of the user’s life. However, there are times when you are forced to use two separate SIM cards for different purposes – one for data and the other one for calling. When Reliance Jio came into the Indian telecom scenario, users mostly resorted to Reliance Jio SIM for internet access and stuck to their old numbers for cellular calling. That trend seems to be staying. To capitalise on this opportunity and this consumer behaviour, it makes sense for the telcos to launch voice-based, or total voice only plans in between the combo plans.
Another thing to factor in this discussion is the older age group in the telecom subscriber base. With increasing demand for data, carriers do not want to neglect the strata of their subscriber base which are least interested in internet access – people hailing mostly from deep rural parts and the older generation. Although we have advanced into the modern times where it is tough for us to live a day without internet access, this ‘voice-only’ crowd makes up for a significant portion of the total subscriber base of the telecom operators.
Not a single dominant telco, with the exception of Jio, has left any stone unturned even in the voice-based prepaid plan sector. Idea Cellular offers a Rs 295 prepaid plan which comes with a 42 days validity offering 5GB data for the entire period and calling benefits which are capped at 250 minutes a day and 1000 minutes a week. There is also the Rs 149 plan which offers free voice calling and 100 SMS per day for 21 days. Bharti Airtel, on the similar lines, gives Rs 299 plan which ships unlimited voice calling and 100 SMS daily for 45 days. Reliance Jio, on the other hand, remains far from this crowd and the Mukesh Ambani led telco doesn’t offer any independent voice-based plan.
However, looking at the growing trends and studying the latest report on the usage of JioPhones it seems that people are slowly migrating to data-based services and they are even getting hooked means that the population of data users is only going to increase at a rapid rate. Like the current scenario highlights, it is safe to say that although these voice-only plans might bring in some quick cash for the telecom operators, they are not likely to be the products based on which these telcos accomplish their future vision.
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