New Delhi: Bharti Airtel Ltd, India’s largest telecom service provider, cut 3G rates by as much as 70% in some circles and overhauled the tariff structure to boost the usage of the high-speed Internet service.
For prepaid users, the new tariffs start at Rs 10 for 30 minutes with a validity of one day and go on to Rs 1,500 for 10 gigabyte (GB) with a 30-day validity period.
For post-paid users, Airtel announced new tariffs that start at Rs 100 for 300 megabyte (MB) and a validity of 30 days and go on to Rs 1,500 for 10 GB with a 30-day validity period.
The “volume-based browsing rate” was cut to 3 paise per 10 kilobyte (KB) from 10 paise for 3G users who are not using a particular package deal, with effect from 17 May, the company said. Volume-based browsing refers to pay-as-you-use plans.
“The new Airtel 3G packs are now available for both pre-paid and post-paid customers across circles using phones as well as dongles,” Airtel said on Thursday.
The telco also introduced top-up plans similar to those the company offers fixed-line Internet customers.
The new tariffs apply across the country, unlike the earlier plans.
The company had nine million 3G customers at the end of March 2012, with at least 30% active at any time, Sanjay Kapoor, chief executive officer (CEO) of India and South Asia at Bharti Airtel, had said on 2 May. The company was offering 3G services in 1,100 cities and towns at that time.
Analysts said the new tariffs have been introduced to drive growth as the high-speed data service has not done as well as expected.
“They had to make an intervention to drive the usage of 3G services. There is also the need to reduce the increasing congestion in the 2G networks,” said a Mumbai-based analyst with a multinational brokerage firm, requesting anonymity.
He also said that the biggest cuts had come mainly for users not applying for a particular package deal but instead using pay-as-you-use tariff options.
Bharti started offering 3G services last year after acquiring spectrum in the 2010 auction in 13 circles for Rs 12,295 crore.
3G services have not taken off as expected in the country.
On 10 April, communications minister Kapil Sibal said that the services had not proven to be successful in the country because of a lack of investment in infrastructure and the devices required.
Jamaludin Ibrahim, CEO of Axiata, who holds a 20% stake in Idea Cellular Ltd, attributed the failure of 3G in India to a shortage of spectrum in both the 2G and 3G bands.
Ibrahim said the shortage of spectrum had led to many operators offering basic voice services on high-capacity 3G spectrum to ensure quality of service norms were followed.
“We will look at the competitive environment once the new tariffs take effect and then look into whether there is a need to review the tariffs,” said a senior official with one of the top five telecom service providers on condition of anonymity.
Vodafone declined to comment. Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd did not respond to queries.
Aircel spokespersons said the company cut its 3G tariffs on 27 April by around 50% and also started offering unlimited usage plans on its multi-mode dongles.
These allow a user to switch between 2G-based wireless data services and the 3G equivalent seamlessly.