Trai asks telcos for data on recharge pattern of prepaid users in lockdown

Topics Coronavirus | TRAI  | Lockdown

Details sought from telcos include the number of subscribers who have benefited from validity extension.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Tuesday asked Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio and other telecom companies to provide data on recharge patterns of prepaid users during the lockdown, and other related information, PTI reported.

Trai has sought a response on the issue in 24 hours, sources told PTI.

The communication from the regulator has gone to all operators, including state-owned telecom companies, sources said, adding that once the response is received, the regulator will finalise its views on the manner in which prepaid benefits should be extended, given that the lockdown has been extended to May 3.

The sources said details sought from telcos include the number of subscribers who have benefited from validity extension and talk time credit -- announced recently. Data has also been sought on a number of subscribers who were unable to recharge during the lockdown.

Vodafone Idea had earlier announced the extension of the validity on prepaid plans availed by low-income customers using feature phones till April 17, and Rs 10 talktime credit, while Bharti Airtel too had offered an extension in the validity period of over 80 million pre-paid connections until April 17 as well as credited Rs 10 talk time in these accounts.

Reliance Jio had offered its JioPhone users 100 minutes of free talktime and 100 free SMS till April 17, and their incoming calls would continue even post validity of their pre-paid vouchers.

The telecom industry had, however, rejected Trai's call for extending benefits of talktime credit and extended validity to all pre-paid mobile phone users. Industry body COAI had argued that telecom firms had offered over Rs 600 crore of benefits to low-income users to stay connected during the nationwide lockdown, and extending it all prepaid. 

The subscriber addition tally for mobile operators is estimated to have tanked to 0.5 million in March against a monthly average of 1.5-3 million on account of coronavirus-led lockdowns, according to industry experts. Sector observers said the situation is likely to continue this month as all-India lockdown is scheduled to be in place till April 14.

Many states had already started imposing movement restrictions for the general public to combat the spread of coronavirus by mid-March. 

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