India's mobile internet rates are lowest in the world, Telecom Minister defends tariff hike

Representational image.

New Delhi: A day after India's top mobile phone service providers announced an increase in call and data charges, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said mobile internet rate in the country remains by far the lowest in the world.

Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone Idea Ltd and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd had on Sunday announced the rise in the cost of subscriptions to their plans with effect from Tuesday.

"India's mobile internet rate per GB remains by far the lowest in the world. The UK-based which compared mobile data plans around the world has indicated this," Prasad tweeted posting the comparative chart made by the price comparison site in March 2019.

The average price of $0.26 for one gigabyte (GB) in India compares to $6.66 in the UK and $2.37 for the same amount of data in the US, the study, which compared mobile data charges in 230 countries, had shown in March 2019, which was posted by Prasad on Monday.

The global average is $8.53 for 1 GB.

"Government of @narendramodi inherited the high cost of the mobile internet from UPA, which was as high as Rs 268.97 per GB in 2014. Now it is Rs 11.78 per GB, as per TRAI," he said in another tweet.

Bharti Airtel hiked prices of its most expensive plan by as much as 41 per cent effective December 3, while Reliance Jio raised them by as much as 40 per cent from December 6. Vodafone Idea increase would also be effective from December 3.

"The mobile phone mess was the scam-tainted legacy of UPA. We have set it right, expanded mobile telephony with consumer satisfaction. Also committed to making BSNL/ MTNL professional and profitable," Prasad said in another tweet.

The hike in tariff comes weeks after the Supreme Court upheld the government's definition of adjusted gross revenue (AGR), which is the basis on which telecom companies' licence fees and spectrum usage charges are paid. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and other telcos face as much as Rs 1.47 lakh crore in past liabilities following this ruling.

Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel have announced new tariffs effective December 3 where headline data plans are priced 15-47 per cent higher. Both have removed their 1 GB per day plans (Rs 399 for 84 days) keeping just the 1.5 GB a day 84-day plan that itself is now 30 per cent more expensive at Rs 599 (from 459 before).

Vodafone Idea though has retained a Rs 379 plan which gives 6 GB data for 84 days.

Jio would raise tariffs by up to 40 per cent from December 6 and also with 300 per cent more benefit.

While Airtel and Vodafone Idea have increased the pricing at the lower end voice-centric plans from Rs35/Rs65 to Rs49/Rs79, the pricing for 28-day unlimited combo plans have increased by 15-30 per cent. The pricing for the most popular 84-day unlimited plan has increased by 30-36 per cent.

Following in Jio's footsteps, both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have also introduced caps for off-net calls as part of their 'unlimited calling' benefits.

According to Credit Suisse, post the tariff hikes, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea's plans are at a 20-60 per cent premium over Jio's October 2019 'All-in-plans'. "We think after Jio's announced tariff hikes, the premium is likely to decline to 10-20 per cent for the more popular tariff plans."

It expected more tariff increases over the next 12-18 months.

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