Telecom operators in India are no longer offering SMS benefits with their low value prepaid recharge plans that are available under Rs. 100. As an industry-wide exercise, players including Reliance Jio, Airtel, and Vi (formerly Vodafone Idea) have updated their entry-level plans to not club them with any SMS message allocation. This will come as a major blow to low paying customers, for whom outgoing SMS messages mean easy access to features like mobile number portability (MNP) as well as SMS based access to services including Unified Payment Interface (UPI).
In 2017, Jio made Rs. 98 plan that had SMS and even received an update that increased its SMS messaging quota from 100 messages to 300. But that plan was later shelved. When Jio reintroduced the plan in May 2021, SMS was dropped. Then Airtel followed a few days later and Vi (Vodafone Idea) took the same step in June, Gadgets 360 has learned.
Telecom companies including Jio, Airtel, and Vi have low-value recharge options for prepaid customers, providing them with unlimited voice calling and high-speed data connectivity.
Jio currently has Rs. 98 plan is the lowest in the prepaid recharge portfolio. It offers 1.5GB high-speed data and unlimited voice calls on a daily basis with a validity of 14 days. Jio also has Rs. 39 prepaid recharge plan with 1.4GB high-speed data access and unlimited voice calls for 14 days. However, it is limited to Jio Phone customers and is not available for regular users. Jio Phone users also have Rs. 75 prepaid plan that includes 50 SMS messages along with 3GB high-speed data and unlimited voice calls for 28 days.
Unlike Jio, Vi has Rs. 49 prepaid plan as its cheapest option, offers 100MB data and Rs. 38 talktime for 28 days. Vi Pack also makes local and national calls at 2.5 paise per second.
Airtel, on the other hand, recently launched Rs. 79 planned its lowest monthly recharge and discontinued the earlier Rs. 49 plan. Rupee. 79 Airtel prepaid plan Rs. 64 talk time, 1 paisa per second local and STD call rates, 106 minutes of outgoing calls and 200 MB data for 28 days.
Industry sources told Gadgets 360 that operators took the step of not offering SMS benefits with their cheaper plans to increase their Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). A person familiar with the development said that customers will choose an additional SMS pack or go for the higher priced plan if they want to send text messages.
Jio’s flat ARPU is Rs. 138.4 in the first quarter of the financial year 2022. Airtel and Vi in their financial fourth quarter results reported their ARPUs at Rs. 145 and Rs. 102, respectively.
The Cellular Association of India (COAI) declined to comment on the update.
The move by telecom operators is expected to impact customers recharging with entry-level plans if they want to use services like UPI as they need to send an SMS message to verify users. Similarly, non-availability of SMS message quota in low priced plans would restrict some of the subscribers who wish to move from one network to another using MNP.