The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has asked the country’s telecom operators including BSNL, Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea to extend the validity of prepaid numbers, ET Telecom reports. Trai is said to have sent a letter to the telecom operators on March 29 in a move that could aid 800 million users during the COVID-19 lockdown. The publication said that the Trai has noted in its letter that users who use offline channels could face difficulties in extending the validity of their prepaid numbers due to the lockdown. Last Tuesday, the Indian government announced a 21-day lockdown that is set to last until April 14 to contain the spread of coronavirus. As of Sunday, the total coronavirus cases has climbed to 1071 and 29 deaths have been reported across India.
Trai Calls for Extended Validity While Congress Dials Free Calls
According to the report, Trai in its letter has said that the “lockdown may adversely affect the working of customer service centres/point of sale locations."
While it remains if the telecom operators respond to Trai's request, it has to be noted that India’s opposition party Congress has called for the telecom operators to offer free calls.
Congress on Sunday said that its general secretary Priyanka Gandhi has written to Mukesh Ambani of Jio, Kumar Mangalam Birla of Vodafone Idea, PK Purwar of BSNL and Sunil Mittal of Airtel. The letter from Gandhi was written in the midst of thousands of migrant workers struggling to reach their homes due to the lockdown.
Gandhi in her letter has said that it’s a “national duty to help our countrymen” during the coronavirus crisis as she pushed for free calling. Further, Gandhi has highlighted that “many of the people going home have run out of money on their phone recharges” and that many are unable to make calls due to financial restraints.
“I urge you to make the incoming and outgoing call facilities on your service in the relevant areas available without charge for the next one month,” Gandhi said.
Telecom Operators Already Battling Surge in Users
While neither Jio, Airtel, BSNL nor Vodafone Idea have made an announcement as of press time, it has to be noted that telecom operators are already battling increased load on their networks. The increase in load was seen by the operators as more users have been forced to use their home networks for their professional use. Recently, the telecom operators had asked the government for additional spectrum and the Cellular Association of India (COAI) had urged mobile users to use data more responsibly.