The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has broadened its investigation into the predatory pricing and unlimited offers of all tariff plans, including both old and new, across all operators, according to a recent report by the Financial Express. The regulatory body is set to examine 4G (5G offerings in cases) and even 3G and 2G plans, with an objective to find out if there are any potential violations of guidelines through predatory pricing or unlimited plan offerings.
Also Read: TRAI to Direct Jio and Airtel to Stop Offering Unlimited 5G Data: Report
This development follows Vodafone Idea's allegations that leading telecom companies, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, are engaging in predatory pricing with their unlimited 5G data offers, despite Vodafone Idea yet to launch its 5G service in the country.
Jio, First to Introduce Unlimited 5G Data
Jio was the first to introduce unlimited 5G data plans priced at Rs 239 and above, with Airtel following suit by offering an introductory offer allowing users on Rs 239 and above plans to access unlimited 5G data. Jio is known for introducing free trial and free unlimited offers to customers.
Additionally, Jio also offers 5G upgrade 4G data voucher priced at Rs 61 for its subscribers who couldn't initially match with its Rs 239 and above recharge denomination, including Rs 119, Rs 149, Rs 179, Rs 199 and Rs 209. The Pack comes with Active Plan validity and 6GB of Data. Upon recharging with this 4G data pack, known ad 5G upgrade pack, users can enjoy Unlimited 5G Data benefit.
Also Read: TRAI to Direct Telecom Operators to Report 5G Users Separately: Report
TRAI wants to Know - Who Started it First and When
Officials said the objective is to find out whether the operators have, at some point, violated the regulatory guidelines by offering either "unlimited" plans or indulged in any form of predatory pricing. "It needs to be found out when it all started and who were the first ones to start," the Report quoted the officials.
Probe into BSNL and Vodafone Idea
TRAI has reportedly initiated an investigation into BSNL and Vodafone Idea's unlimited data plans as part of the ongoing probe against Jio and Airtel concerning their unlimited 5G data offers. While BSNL Stopped the Unlimited Data Plan offer recently, it used to offer an Unlimited Data Pack on 2G/3G data plans. Vodafone also offers Unlimited Data Plan on 3G/4G data plans, even today.
Also Read: TRAI to Examine BSNL and Vodafone Idea Unlimited Data Plans: Report
While TRAI intended to direct Jio and Airtel to discontinue their unlimited data offerings with 5G tariff plans, the two telcos argue that Vodafone Idea is also "guilty" of similar practices with its 4G plans.
Dispute Over Predatory Pricing Allegations
In response to Vodafone Idea's allegation of predatory pricing, TRAI has rejected the claim, stating that the tariffs offered by the top two telcos are not below cost. Vodafone Idea is losing wireless subscribers at an alarming rate monthly and is continuing a 23rd-month streak.
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"Vodafone Idea today does not have a significant market share of 30% in majority of the circles, but it had in the past. It is, therefore, necessary to find out whether it indulged in predatory pricing in the past," quoted the Report citing the officials.
Past Allegations and Dismissal
In 2017, Bharti Airtel raised allegations of predatory pricing against Jio, accusing the company of offering free services as a welcome offer. However, both the Competition Commission of India and TRAI dismissed these allegations at the time. The decision was based on the fact that Jio did not possess significant market power, with its market share in individual circles being below the 30% threshold.
Regulatory Response and Extended Investigation
However, according to TRAI, Unlimited Data is against regulatory guidelines and should be stopped. To ensure an exhaustive examination of predatory pricing and unlimited offers, TRAI has extended the investigation to include past offers by the telcos, recognizing the need for a comprehensive regulatory response.