Airtel, Vodafone announce hike in telecom tariffs

Cabinet approves relief package for telecoms sector
A rickshaw puller speaks on his mobile phone as he waits for customers in front of advertisement billboards belonging to telecom companies in Kolkata February 3, 2014. Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

New Delhi: Telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea has announced a hike in mobile call and data tariffs across plans by 20-25 per cent.

The new tariffs will come into effect on November 25 for Vodafone subscribers and on November 26 for Airtel subscribers.

The changes - Vodafone Idea

Debt-ridden telecom operator Vodafone Idea has increased the minimum value of recharge by 25.31 per cent for 28 days period to Rs 99 from Rs 79. In the popular unlimited category plans, Vodafone Idea has hiked the rates in the range of 20-23 per cent.

The lowest plan bundled with a per day 1 GB data limit with 28 days validity will cost Rs 269 from November 25 onwards. Currently, it costs Rs 219.

Further, the price of 84 days validity plan with 1.5 GB per day data limit will cost Rs 719 instead of Rs 599.

The 365 days plan with 1.5 GB per day data limit will go up by 20.8 per cent to Rs 2,899. Currently, it is priced at Rs 2,399.

The company has also increased the price of low value data top up by about 20 per cent.

The changes - Bharti Airtel

Airtel's entry-level tariffed voice plan has been raised by about 25 per cent, while for unlimited voice bundles, the increase in most cases is about 20 per cent. Sunil Mittal led telco -- whose India mobile customer base stood at about 323 million at the last count -- has also increased the tariffs for data top-up plans by about 20-21 per cent.

In a statement announcing the revised mobile tariffs, Airtel said it has always maintained that the mobile Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) needs to be at Rs 200 and ultimately at Rs 300 to provide a reasonable return on capital that allows for a financially healthy business model. 

"We also believe that this level of ARPU will enable the substantial investments required in networks and spectrum. Even more important, this will give Airtel the elbow room to roll out 5G in India," an Airtel statement said.

As a first step towards this, the company said it is taking the lead in "rebalancing" tariffs during November. 

In tariffed voice plans, the new rate is Rs 99, against the current Rs 79 - which works out to an increase of 25.3 per cent. This comes with 28 days validity and benefits like 50 per cent more talk time worth Rs 99, 200MB data, 1p/sec voice tariff. 

The other categories where a hike has been announced are unlimited voice bundles and data top-ups. 

This is the first time after a long gap that the company has hiked tariffs at this scale.

Previously, the revision had been to a limited extent. For instance, in July this year, Airtel discontinued its Rs 49 prepaid recharge, raising entry-level pricing to improve realisations, and also upgraded its postpaid plans.

The hikes are far-reaching, this time around.

In the unlimited voice bundle, Airtel's plan priced at Rs 149 will now be Rs 179 with a validity of 28 days and benefits such as unlimited calling, 100 SMS/day, 2 GB data; even as at the top end the Rs 2,498 plan has been hiked to Rs 2,999 and comes with 365 days for unlimited calling, 100 SMS/day and 2 GB/day data.

For data top-ups, the Rs 48 plan would now cost Rs 58, offering 3 GB data; while the Rs 98 plan has been increased to Rs 118 with 12 GB data. 

Airtel has also announced a tariff hike in Rs 251 data top-up plan, which will now cost Rs 301 with 50 GB data.

Telecom sector under stress

Earlier this year, Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal had said the industry's tariffs need to go up amid tremendous stress in the telecom sector. 

The company has been of the view that mobile industry ARPUs (Average Revenue Per User) is not sustainable and should improve to Rs 200 in the near term, and Rs 300 in the longer term.

For the just-ended quarter, Airtel's mobile ARPU increased to Rs 153.

Vodafone Idea CEO Ravinder Takkar, during a recent post-earnings investor call of the company, had asserted that tariff hike remains critical for continued revival of the sector.

The telecom sector is buoyant and upbeat after the government recently approved a blockbuster revival package that includes a four-year break for companies from paying statutory dues, permission to share scarce airwaves, change in the definition of revenue on which levies are paid and 100 per cent foreign investment through the automatic route. 

The measures -- aimed at providing relief to telecom service providers that have to pay thousands of crores in unprovisioned past statutory dues -- also include the scrapping of Spectrum Usage Charge (SUC) for airwaves acquired in future spectrum auctions.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.