Industry body COAI on Thursday told the sector regulator that operators have provided adequate relief to low-income subscribers despite financial stress, and expectation of extending benefit to all prepaid users is not appropriate.
Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) said in case TRAI and the government still feel the need for extension of benefits to all prepaid feature phone subscribers, then this should be provided in the form of a subsidy to the telecom sector like many other essential services.
"This could be adequately compensated from the USO Fund where more than Rs 51,500 crore is being lying unutilised as on March 31, 2020," COAI said in a letter to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
The industry association said that adequate measures have been taken by telecom operators to support low-income users, who genuinely need help to stay connected, despite the financial stress being faced by the sector. Expectation of extending benefit to all prepaid users, even those who have the means to recharge, is not appropriate, it said.
Providing benefits indiscriminately even to privileged customers would amount to "unjustified subsidy" to a larger section "at a steep loss to industry", it has argued.
COAI also said that the value of benefits announced by telcos for low-income users, including extension of validity and talktime credit, is estimated to be over Rs 600 crore, even on conservative basis.