Jio, Airtel, Vodafone want TRAI to fix price for mobile internet

Indian mobile operators have proposed telecom regulator TRAI to fix a minimum price for mobile internet, COAI said on Tuesday.
India mobile Internet subscriber growth
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), in a letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), said that Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have agreed that the data tariffs should be regulated. However, telecom operators want mobile call rates to continue to remain unregulated, PTI reported.

“All the telecom service providers in the private sector — Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea — are in complete agreement that Trai be requested to regulate tariffs by setting floor price for data services,” COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews said in the letter dated December 3, 2019.

The development comes following the three telecom operators, which account for 90 percent market share, raising mobile call and internet rates by up to 50 percent from December 3 onwards.

This is the first hike in the past five years in the country’s telecom sector facing tariff war, with voice calls becoming almost free in 2016 and a steep 95 per cent fall in data prices to Rs 11.78 per GB at present from Rs 269 per GB in 2014.

“We further submit that the tariff correction in the current level of fierce competition is not possible by any service provider voluntarily and thus the only option available is prescription of a minimum tariff for mobile data service by the authority,” Rajan Mathews said.

He said that a tariff correction for data services will not be out of sync with global trends as India has the lowest data tariffs globally, estimated to be around 50 times lower than the price in major developing and developed countries.

Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said mobile internet rate in the country remains by far the lowest in the world. Citing a March 2019 study which compared mobile data charges in 230 countries, Prasad said the average price of USD 0.26 per 1 gigabyte (GB) data in India compares to USD 6.66 in the UK and USD 12.37 for the same amount of data in the US.

The move to increase mobile call and internet rates follows the Supreme Court judgment on October 24 this year, upholding the government’s method of calculating revenue share that it should get from earnings of service providers.

Vodafone Idea reported a loss of Rs 50,921 crore for September quarter on account of liability arising out of the Supreme Court’s order. The company has estimated liability of Rs 44,150 crore post the apex court order, and made provisioning of Rs 25,680 crore in the second quarter this fiscal.

Bharti Airtel had posted Rs 23,045 crore net loss for the second quarter ended September 30 due to provisioning of Rs 28,450 crore in the wake of the SC ruling on statutory dues.