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Customers can receive incoming calls on their Airtel mobile numbers even after the validity of their plan is exhausted

Amid lockdown, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel had earlier extended the validity of their prepaid plans till April 17, 2020

Airtel, Vodafone Idea extend validity of pre-paid plans till 3 May

Private telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea announced the extension of validity for pre-paid mobiles accounts of low-income customers till 3rd May after Trai scrutiny into the math of validity extension they had previously announced. Reliance Jio has extended a similar initiative for all customers who fail to recharge during this time.

Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL), has announced the extension of incoming services for low income feature phone prepaid users till 3rd May when the nationwide lockdown to prevent Covid-19 spread will end. Bharti Airtel announced a similar initiative to allow low income customers to receive incoming calls on their Airtel mobile numbers even after the validity of their plan is exhausted till 3 May. Jio has also launched a JioPOS Lite app to incentivize subscribers to recharge for others and earn commission from it.

“Many of these customers have been able to recharge through several channels activated by Airtel including - ATMs, post Offices, grocery stores and chemist shops, in addition to digital channels. However, close to 30 million such customers have still not been able to recharge their pre-paid mobile accounts," said Airtel in a statement.

Earlier this week, telecom companies including Jio approached Trai over prepaid recharge patterns, news agency PTI reported. Jio, Airtel, Vodafone Idea sought time till April 20 to submit the data. Earlier, Trai had asked all the telcos to provide data on recharge patterns of prepaid users during the lockdown and other related information. Trai also requested details on number of subscribers who have benefitted from validity extension and talktime credit and number of subscribers who were unable to recharge during the lockdown.

Last month, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel extended the validity of its prepaid plans till April 17, 2020 for customers using feature phones and/ or low-income customers. BSNL announced similar measures. The telcos also credited ₹10 talktime to low-income/ feature phone customers. Reliance Jio, had announced that it will give 100 minutes of calls and SMS free of cost to its JioPhone users. It has also announced that their users’ numbers won’t be suspended, if they don’t recharge their numbers.

Today, Avneesh Khosla, Marketing Director, Vodafone Idea said, “In order to ensure that consumers stay connected during this extended lock down, we are extending the incoming service validity of 90 mn consumers till May 3rd. This would effectively mean that these consumers can use their phones for receiving incoming calls unhindered."

Trai had sent similar letters on April 7 to the telcos Airtel, Jio, Vodafone Idea and MTNL to accelerate the corrective measures in order to ensure uninterrupted services to all prepaid users during the lockdown and sought an immediate compliance report from the telcos.

On 9th April, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) noted that to ensure continuity of service to the citizens, who are at the bottom of the pyramid and are not in a position to recharge their prepaid services, member operators had provided extended validity for continuation of their services and talk time benefits to enable them to make essential calls.

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“The customers who actually required support from the telecom service providers for continuation of their services in the initial period of lockdown are in the range of 80- 100 million whereas our member operators have collectively extended the benefits for continuation of services to around 280-300 million subscribers," wrote COAI.

The value of such benefits is more than ₹600 Crore, according to COAI estimates. Therefore, the expectation that the benefit will be extended further, including to all the prepaid customers, who have the means to recharge, is not appropriate.