Rs-350. It seems that this is all Airtel, Jio, Vodafone and Idea want from you as the monthly recharge money for your phone number. Suddenly, the Rs 350 has become the most hotly contested price point among the phone companies. Of course, it all started with Jio, which announced the Prime membership and then accompanied it with the Rs 303 plan. But today, the old guard has struck back, giving consumers plans that are as good as Jio’s Rs 303 plan. More or less.
So what are the plans? Let’s quickly go through them
Jio Rs 303 plan: This plan requires Jio Prime membership that costs extra Rs 99 per annum. But that is pretty low price. It’s just little more than Rs 8 per month. Once you have the Jio Prime and the Rs 303 plan, you will get 28GB data per 28 days at 4G speed. Every day, this data will have a limit of 1GB. If you exhaust that limit, your Jio data connection will still work but at a lowered 128kpbs speed. You will also get unlimited calls and messages. And there are no roaming charges. Finally, too sweeten the deal, Jio is also bundling a Rs 201 plan with it for free. This will give users additional 5GB data, although to avail it users have to subscribe to Rs 303 plan before March 31. This is a seriously heavy blow from Jio to Airtel, Vodafone and Idea. But they have now responded.
Vodafone Rs 346 plan: This is the most comprehensive and serious challenge Jio is facing. In its simplicity and in its data rates, Vodafone not only matches Jio but also surpasses it in some way. You don’t need any Prime or special membership for this plan, although you do need to be a pre-paid users. But once you subscribe to this plan, you get 28GB data for 28 days. This plan, just like Jio plan, limits 4G data speed to 1GB per day. But unlike the Jio plan, it doesn’t give users unlimited data. Although it does offer free unlimited calls and messages and convenience of free domestic roaming. But that is not all. The Vodafone plan also gives users double the data (56GB) for double validity (56 days) for one month when they subscribe to Rs 346 plan. Offer is available only till March 15.
Airtel Rs 349 plan: Airtel too has responded. Although, its offer comes with some specific terms and conditions. Available to pre-paid users, the Rs 349 plan gives users 28GB data with FUP of 1GB per day. However, this 1GB FUP is further divided. 500MB of this data is available only between 3am to 5am. This means only for 2 hours and that too at hours when the world wants to sleep and not browse the web. For the rest of day, users get only 500mb. Other than that, users also get free unlimited domestic calls, no roaming charges and unlimited messages.
Idea Rs 345 plan: Idea to has something to counter. Although, its plan is the weakest of all. It is offering 14GB data at a recharge of Rs 345, along with unlimited calls and messages. Given that the amount of data is less, its daily FUP is also less. It offers 500MB per day of data to subscribers of this plan.
A fight to death?
The fight today among the telecom companies in India suddenly makes India one of the countries with cheapest wireless data rates. In fact, India probably now has the cheapest wireless data, although quality of service can still be improved. And the repercussion of such free fall in data and call rates are going to be big.
Although earlier the data prices were arbitrarily and exorbitantly high in India, now suddenly they are shockingly low. Where these rates will lead the industry is something only time will tell but the chances are that this is the beginning of the fight. There are two sides to the fight. Jio needs to offer dirt cheap rates so that it can gather the mass and momentum within the industry. If it has to retain its over 100 million users, who for now are using Jio for free, it has to offer data at throwaway prices. And it is doing exactly that.
For Airtel, Vodafone and Idea it is all about guarding their turf. They know that in this competitive industry loss of even an inch will suffocate them. So they are prepared to fight, fight until they are bleeding because there is no other way but to brace and hit back. Yet, it is a fight they pick reluctantly. Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal captures it best. “Tariffs that they (Jio) have announced are still very aggressive, which means you got to respond. You got to do more packages… you have to throw in more data. All those things need to be done… But yes, still to our mind, it is the pricing which is unsustainable,” said Mittal a few days ago.
But you win…for now
There is another party in this fight: users. And they are going to win in the short run. In India, where wired internet is in bad shape, now suddenly wireless has become so cheap that for many people it will easily fulfil their needs. Even if you live all the time on Facebook, 28GB per month on a phone will be plenty for you. And finally it is cheap, like so very cheap.
In the long run, we don’t know how all of this will play-out. For now, as Mittal says, these rates indeed look unsustainable. But then business models change, something that Jio is talking about, and companies find another way to sustain the business. After all that is how markets rebuilds and reshapes itself after a disruption. And today shows that Jio is a disruption. It is changing the Indian telecom industry and while the ride ahead may turn out to be rocky, for now as a consumer you can go ahead and enjoy that dirt-cheap high-speed data.