Last week, when Reliance Industries Ltd's (RIL) chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani, launched the Reliance Jio Prime programme, telecom operators such as Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular must have heaved a sigh of relief. The time for freebies is finally over.
The Prime programme, priced at Rs 303 per month, can be activated by paying a one-time fee of Rs 99 and comes with unlimited free calls and 30 GB data every month.
Jio, which offered free voice calls and data for seven months, will start charging its 100-million subscriber base from April 1 onwards, albeit a paltry amount. But the older telcos believe this will end the price distortions created by Jio over the past few months.
Top telcos, Airtel and Vodafone, have already launched competitive plans to take on the Jio's Prime programme.
Vodafone has launched a new tariff plan of Rs 346 that offers 28 GB data and unlimited free calls for a month. The company has further sweetened the deal by offering 56 GB data and unlimited free calls for 56 days when a user activates the pack for the first time.
Earlier this week, Airtel announced two bundled plans to counter Jio Prime - priced at Rs 145 and Rs 349 for a month. The plans offer 14 GB of 3G/4G data and unlimited voice calls.
However, the cheaper plan offers unlimited calls only on Airtel's network (landline and mobile) while the Rs 349 variant offers unlimited voice calls across all networks. Idea too has launched a plan for Rs 348 per month offering unlimited voice calls, and 500 megabytes (or 14 GB) of 4G data per day - for select users.
But it is too little, too late from the incumbents while Jio seems to have found favour with the users who are not particularly happy about the 'reactionary offers' of the older telcos.
Airtel has also announced it is planning to kill the national roaming charges and reduce its international roaming rates by 90 per cent. The company's move to end national roaming charges is largely driven by the fact that Jio started off with zero roaming rates last September. Many subscribers are livid as Airtel has taken so long to take this step.
Nevertheless, some loyalists still laud Airtel's move - half-heartedly.