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Airtel Discontinues Rs 49 Prepaid Recharge, Raises Entry-Level Pricing

Airtel upgraded its postpaid plans, while earlier this week, the enterprise arm of Vodafone Idea (VIL), Vi Business, announced a range of new postpaid plans for corporate customers, saying upgraded plans would be bundled with various benefits.

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With a steadfast gaze on improving realisation, Bharti Airtel on Wednesday announced revisions to its prepaid plans, raising its entry-level pricing by nearly 60 per cent. The telecom operator said it has discontinued its Rs 49 entry-level prepaid recharge.

The company's prepaid packs would now start from the Rs 79 smart recharge and offer up to four times more outgoing minutes of usage to customers along with double data, Airtel said in a statement.

'This change is in line with the company's focus on offering superior connectivity solutions. Airtel customers on entry level recharges can now stay connected for longer without worrying about their account balance,' Airtel said.

The revision is effective from Thursday. The Rs 79 plan packs-in Rs 64 talk time, and 200 MB data, with validity of 28 days.

The latest move is significant as telecom operators are focusing on raising average revenue per user (ARPUs). Market watchers believe that the announcement by Airtel, as well as the recent tweak to corporate plans, may pave the way for future tariff hikes.

Last week, Airtel upgraded its postpaid plans, while earlier this week, the enterprise arm of Vodafone Idea (VIL), Vi Business, announced a range of new postpaid plans for corporate customers, saying upgraded plans would be bundled with various benefits.

Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal has been saying that the industry's tariffs need to go up amid 'tremendous stress' in the telecom sector.

'To say telecom industry is in a bit of trouble is actually an understatement. It is in a tremendous amount of stress. I hope the Government, the authorities, and telecom department...all...focus on this issue and ensure India's digital dream remains intact through the provision of at least three operators,' Mittal had said recently.

The top boss of Bharti Group had further contended that market repair must take place.

'We had ARPU of Rs 220-230 before Jio came in. Today, the industry is about Rs 130-ish...so significantly lower than where it was six years back and people are consuming 15 GB (data) a month (higher than before).

'So something has to give...it is unsustainable, where we are today,' Mittal had said earlier this month on the sidelines of a virtual event of OneWeb, a satellite communications company led by Bharti Global.

The industry stress is perhaps most visible on cash-strapped Vodafone Idea, which last month approached the government for a one-year moratorium on payment of spectrum instalment of over Rs 8,200 crore (due in April 2022).

VIL told the telecom department that while it is working on raising new funding for the last six months, 'investors are not willing to invest in the company because they believe that unless there is a significant improvement in consumer tariffs, the health of the industry will not recover and they will incur a loss on their investment.' Many analysts are of the view that the recent dismissal of telcos' plea by the Supreme Court on re-computation of AGR-related dues may deal a body blow to the troubled Vodafone Idea, whose balance sheet situation is precarious. 

(PTI)


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