Bharti Airtel, India’s largest telecom operator by revenue, has increased the data allocation on its unlimited plan to 0.5 GB per day from 4 GB per month.

First noted by Credit Suisse, the schemes have been rolled out since Reliance Jio unveiled a 1 GB/day scheme last week.

Airtel had, a couple of months ago, announced two plans to counter Jio — unlimited on-network calls at Rs 149 and unlimited calls to all networks with 1 GB of data at Rs 345.

Later, it increased the data allocation to 4 GB for 4G users.

These plans have now been modified — for select users as of now — by increasing the data allowance to 0.5 GB per day.

As a result, for Rs 149, you can now get 0.5 GB of data per day along with free on-net calls.

Moreover, these are open to both 3G and 4G handset users, unlike the earlier ones that were restricted to 4G users only.

CHEAPEST DATA PLAN IN INDIA

This makes the Rs 149 plan the cheapest data plan in India other than the truly unlimited pack from BSNL.

At Rs 149, a user can consume as much as 14 GB per month, which translates to a per-GB cost of around Rs 10.

“Talking to shopkeepers and distributors, we understand the company is urging the sales partners to push these plans to customers,” Credit Suisse analysts Sunil Tirumala and Viral Shah said.

“Indeed, not only is the customer incentivised, but even the channel: retailer is given special higher commission which is nearly twice the usual 2.5-3.0% of sale value. Thus, unlike earlier such offers which would be more ‘pull’ driven, there appears to be a reasonable ‘push’ effort here.”

Though Reliance Jio offers double the data — 1 GB per day — it also costs twice as much.

The move has come as a first response to Jio’s new tariff, and was widely expected. However, it is unlikely to be the last such scheme.

“They are testing out different things,” said an industry official. “If these don’t stop the bleeding, they’ll come up with more aggressive ones.”

‘Bleeding’ in this case refers to the defection of Bharti’s users to the new operator led by Mukesh Ambani.

While the new Rs 149 plan is competitive from a data-cost and superior from a handset comptability perspective, the 303 scheme from the new entrant does have certain advantages.

First, it doesn’t restrict free calls to its own networks. Secondly, ‘free calls’ in this case covers roaming as well, while roaming is still chargeable in case of Bharti’s plans.

In case the company does not see a recovery in its sales, it is likely to respond with more and more offers, according to most market participants.

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