Bharti Airtel users get free roaming: Here's the Jio impact so far

Bharti Airtel office building in New Delhi
Telecom major Bharti Airtel has decided to do away with national roaming charges for both voice and data services, a move that is sure to benefit its 268 million users, in order to take on Mukesh Ambani's Reliance JioInfocomm.

Airtel announced free incoming calls, SMS and no Premium on outgoing calls while roaming across India. "This marks the death of national roaming," said Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO (India & South Asia), Bharti Airtel.

In a BSE filing, Airtel said daily billing will be automatically adjusted to the price of basic one day pack even for customers who don't buy a roaming pack.

With this, Airtel mobile customers will be able to carry their numbers across India and the world. Starting from April 1, 2017, Airtel customers will not be charged for data usage on national roaming.

Call charges have been reduced by upto 90 per cent to as low as Rs 3 per minute and data charges by upto 99 per cent to Rs 3 per MB across roaming destinations.

"At Airtel, we are changing the international roaming paradigm. As an industry, operators across the world must collaborate to remove the cost barrier to roaming and offer customers the convenience of staying connected", said Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of GSMA.

Here is what Bharti Airtel has planned for its customers:

* Simplify activation and billing for consumers who travel overseas

* Free incoming calls/ SMSes on national roaming 

* No premium on outgoing calls

* No domestic roaming charges on its network for both voice and data services

Customer is King

The saying "customer is the king", is even more evident ever since Jio's entry triggered a price war in India. 

Airtel's move is likely to force rival Vodafone India and Idea Cellular to follow suit in a bid to protect their subscriber base, already under threat from Jio’s free voice and data offers, which includes free roaming.

With operators launching aggressive plans to match Reliance Jio, the telecom sector is looking at a turbulent 2017.

Jio's freebies have ended. Here is what experts have to say on long-term, short-term impact on the industry:

Free ride for Jio customers has come to an end, however, analysts say that this will come as a "mild" not an "absolute" relief to rivals. 

JP Morgan: RJio's new pricing plan represents a compelling enough proposition for the post-paid subscribers/high-end pre-paid subscribers of competitors (of ARPU less than Rs 300), who can enjoy a lower ARPU from RJio for incomparably more content. "Bharti packs in 4GB and unlimited voice in its monthly Rs 345 plan through calender year 2017 it will now have to offer markedly more data to look comparable with RJio and prevent consumer defection.

HSBC on near-term impact: The next month may see a big increase in competitive intensity likely to be driven by Jio Prime. We don't think incumbents have much choice other than to match Jio, but, we are not sure if all incumbent telcos can match unlimited data plans, particularly Idea and Vodafone, given their limited 4G spectrum holdings

HSBC also noted that Jio's price point targets mid high end subscribers and it may not be easy to churn them even with unlimited offers.

UBS: Since Jio's offer is only valid for subscribers before March 31, we also see the risk that the loss of subscribers from incumbents to Jio accelerate in the next six weeks as subscribers try to take advantage of the unlimited offer. We intend watching closely for any reactionary unlimited launches from incumbents to stem such subscriber loss.

Reliance Jio’s impact so far

Vodafone

Vodafone Red plans from Rs 1,699 offer unlimited calling for postpaid users. The Rs 1,699 plan include unlimited free (local + STD) calls, free incoming on roaming, 500 (local + STD) messages and 12GB of data. It is followed by Rs 1,999 plan with similar details, except it has 16GB of data. Vodafone’s Rs 1,299 plan offers only 3000 minutes of local + STD calling and around 8GB of data.

On the prepaid side, there are recharges above Rs 144 which offer free roaming on Vodafone network and 50 MB free data. There’s also a Rs 344 prepaid recharge that has unlimited calls, roaming on all mobile networks and 300 MB free data for 3G handset users and 1 GB data for 4G handset users. The daily data part is still less than what Reliance Jio offers under the Prime membership.

Airtel 

Airtel’s ‘myplan Infinity’ plans for postpaid users offers free unlimited calling starting at Rs 799, but only 100 local + STD messages per day and a limit of 2GB of 3G/4G data the month. These plans also come with free subscription to Wynk Music + Wynk Movies. Then there’s the Rs 1,199 plan, which has similar benefits except it has a higher 5GB data limit and this applies for 3G and 4G. The Rs 1,599 plan offers 10GB of 3G/4G data, while there’s a Rs 1,999 plan with 15GB of 3G/4G data. Finally, the Rs 2,999 plan gives 30GB of 3G/4G data with similar free voice calls, 100 local+STD messages etc.

For prepaid, Airtel users can get a Rs 345 recharge, and then they will be able to make unlimited calls to any network, but the data limit is stingy at 1GB of 4G data for 28 days. Airtel also has a smaller Rs 145 recharge pack which offers unlimited free voice calls to any network, but only 300MB 4G data free for 28 days.

Idea Cellular

Idea’s unlimited calling plans come with just 3G data; there’s no 4G bundled along as with the other operators. Idea Cellular’s Rs 1,199 plan gives users unlimited local + STD calling, unlimited free calling on roaming, 5GB of 3G data and 3000 local + national SMS. There’s a Rs 1,599 plan that offers the same deal, but with 10GB of 3G data.

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