Your mobile bills will become more expensive as unlimited free calls end on all networks

NEW DELHI: The days of unlimited free voice calls over the networks are over for Indian customers with Airtel, Vodafone -Idea and Reliance Jio terminating free outbound services. As of December 3, customers must pay 6 paisa per minute for outgoing calls after exceeding the free minute fee.

On Sunday, Airtel and Vodafone Idea increased the rates for its prepaid customers from December 3 with an increase of between 10% and 45%. Both of them telecommunications players have also made the minimum monthly entry plan expensive, hiking it from Rs 35 to Rs 49. Reliance Jio said that it will be increasing the tariffs on its ‘all-in-one’ plans by 40% from December 6.

Airtel and Vodafone Idea have kept their post-paid customers out of the tariff hikes, considering they are already high-paying users and on an average pay around Rs 499 per month.

The tariff hikes impact voice calling in a big way as customers are now likely to get limited minutes (under fair usage policy or FUP) while calling customers of other networks. For example, on Vodafone Idea, a Rs 299 charge for 28 days will give 1000 minutes free on calls to other networks, beyond which 6 paise per minute will be charged. Airtel also said that FUP will apply to all its ‘unlimited calling’ plans.

However, voice calls will continue to be completely free when customers call someone on the same network.

The price hikes come after a period of nearly three years, or since September 2016 when Reliance Jio had unshackled the business financials of the industry by introducing highly-aggressive tariff plans that included unlimited free voice and dirt-cheap data tariffs.

Airtel and Vodafone Idea had said on November 18 that tariffs will be going up from December as the cash-strapped loss-making companies take steps to “remain viable” in view of their poor financial positions and the steep statutory and government payment obligations on them (a major burden coming in after the Supreme Court's Adjusted Gross Revenue - AGR - ruling of October 24).

Analysts welcomed the rises, saying it is a duty to keep the Indian telecommunications companies viable, and added that there is room for even more rate revisions. We are still among the cheapest tariff markets in the world, Sanjay Kapoor, former CEO of Airtel India , which analyzes the sector closely, told TOI.

However, he added that the expectations of network customers will increase after rate revisions. “Companies will need to improve the customer experience, or else there will be reprisals. It takes a lot of investment in 4G and telecommunications fiber to be video quality. The experience of use in the building is still weak, and there are also massive dark spots, ”said Kapoor.

The companies said the rate revisions will help them make new investments to improve the network. “Our new mobile plans offer great value for our client. Airtel will continue to make large investments in emerging technologies and digital platforms to offer world-class experiences, Shashwat Sharma, Marketing Director of Bharti Airtel , said.

The company led by Sunil Mittal said its new plans represent rate increases in the range of 50 paise per day to Rs 2.85 per day. In addition, Airtel provides exclusive benefits as part of the Airtel Thanks platform, which allows access to premium content ... device protection, antivirus protection and much more.

Jio also said he will continue to strengthen his network. While remaining committed to the final interest of the consumer, Jio will take all necessary measures to help maintain the telecommunications industry.

Jio is the only profit-making telecom business in the industry, and was also the least impacted by the Supreme Court’s AGR judgement. On the other hand, Vodafone Idea suffered a record loss of nearly Rs 51,000 crore in the second quarter of this fiscal, while Airtel’s loss was at Rs 23,045 crore. The AGR order asks telecom companies to pay up Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the government in three months, with Vodafone Idea required to pay Rs 53,038 crore and Airtel Rs 35,586 crore.

Industry observers say the current tariff hikes will not be enough for companies to meet their quotas, and their needs must be a special package on AGR quotas for them to survive.

Recommended by a Committee of Secretaries of high power, the government recently granted a two-year moratorium of Rs 42,000 crore in the payment of spectrum fees to telecommunications companies to leave cash in their hands.

Airtel and Vodafone Idea have now approached the top court for relief on its AGR verdict after the government refused to intervene on the matter.