Well, this is bad timing at its worst. We Indians are used to telecom companies that disable our SMS packs or phone call tariffs on festive occasions, but this time India’s largest telecom player has given an even bigger shock on the occasion of Christmas. This Christmas Airtel has turned into “Evil Santa” by announcing its updated 3G tariff plans that won’t cover data used for VoIP calls under the standard data plan from now. It means if you’re an Airtel subscriber and you talk to your friends or family on apps like Skype or Viber using your existing data plan, you’ll now have to fork over extra cash from your wallet to enjoy that facility. According to new rules of Airtel data used for VoIP calls will now be charged additionally at the rate of 4p/10 KB on 3G and and 10p/10 KB on 2G.
This move is quite shocking at the moment, especially because company’s biggest rival Reliance Communications has just come out with unlimited mobile internet for a flat fee of Rs. 999 per month and a new One India Plan that won’t leave any distinction between local calls, STD calls and data usage. This steep pricing will be applicable to prepaid customers only, which account for a majority of company’s customer base and revenue.
OTT players like Skype, Viber, Line and others have been a point of concern for telecom companies from long time. In addition to that, WhatsApp, the service due to which SMS-based revenues of telecom giants took a major blow, is now going to launch its own voice calling powered app according to some leaked screenshots that appeared recently on the web. Needless to say that if this happens, this time it’ll hit the calling-based revenue side of telcos. Telecom companies have long been complaining that OTT players use their infrastructure to make profits for themselves while their revenue and margins suffer. In such an environment, this move from Airtel is certainly a defensive one against OTT players.
Now let’s do a little bit of number crunching. On an average around 250-300kb of data is used for every single minute of VoIP calls. So it means a VoIP call will cost you around Rs. 1 – Rs. 1.5 per minute on 3G and Rs. 2.5 – Rs. 3 on 2G, which is much more than the current rates of standard phone calls.
Sometime earlier telecom companies (including Airtel)had also asked TRAI to charge additionally for usage of messenger apps, for which TRAI had refused. Seems like these companies (especially Airtel) are now in the mood of getting their money back from us that we’ve saved till now by using these apps.
Do you think it’s a right move? Sound your thoughts in comments.