If you have been thinking of late about switching your telecom service provider or changing your usage plan, you are not alone. The telecom market is flooded with unbelievable plans, and the already cut-throat competition is set to intensify further. The statistics buttress this: There are around 2,500 plans across the country and, on average, around 250 plans are being offered in a particular circle/region. No wonder we are seeing revolutionary concepts such as a Re1 local call for any duration, “per second” pulse and 50 paise STD calling. The offers sound incredible. We zero in on some of the cheapest recent offerings.
Talk unlimited for Re1
First off, the most remarkable one—Tata Indicom’s “Pay per call” scheme. Advertisements say “you can talk however long you want and you will be charged only Re1 per call for local calls and Rs3 for STD calls. And you can call landlines and mobiles across networks. Starter kit costs Rs99. Tata Indicom subscribers would be able to avail this plan by paying a daily rental of Re1 or Rs30 monthly and they have to do a recharge of Rs254.”
Fantastic though it may sound, the terms and conditions (T&Cs) are a dampener. The Re1/Rs3 claim for “any duration” seems misleading because the T&Cs clearly state: Each local call will be charged at Re1 for 10 minutes and each STD call will be charged at Rs3 for 10 minutes. It does not require a genius to figure out that the pulse is 600 seconds, not unlimited.
Imaging: Sandipan Das / Mint
Another point is that Tata Indicom may monitor your calling pattern if it notices any “misuse” of the scheme. And the term “misuse” is not defined anywhere. The T&Cs also say you need a new handset for this plan to work, which means you need to purchase a handset and a SIM!
STD at 50 paise per minute
The “Simply Reliance Plan” is Reliance Communications’ answer to the tariff war. Under this plan, all calls, whether local or STD, will be charged at 50 paise per minute. You can make calls to cellphones as well as landlines at this rate across networks. What is more, the rates are the same for roaming. The offer pack comes with a lifetime validity and costs Rs49 for the pre-paid plan. For post-paid subscribers, the monthly rental to avail of the plan is Rs99.
However, you need to get a minimum recharge of Rs200 every six months to avail of the lifetime validity and rates. In addition, after you buy the pack, you need to get a recharge of Rs51 to activate the plan. In effect, you are spending Rs100 for the pre-paid pack.
Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) are also offering call rates of 50 paise per minute, and all of them come with their own sets of “unique” conditions.
Airtel’s 50 paise STD offer is for both pre-paid and post-paid customers, who can avail of it through recharge vouchers and monthly packs, respectively, which cost between Rs35 and Rs77.
According to the T&Cs, the call rates are valid only for calls to Airtel mobiles and there is no talk time on recharge cards. Local calls are also charged at 50 paise per minute. However, if your current plan has a lower tariff than the Airtel Advantage Plan, you will be charged at the lower tariff: It seems to be a good offer.
Vodafone has also jumped on to the bandwagon. The company offers STD calling at 50 paise to its pre-paid customers, although the offerings are somewhat different. There are three plans which offer 50 paise STD, depending on the cities where it has been launched. In some cities, you can avail of national and local calls (“everyone, everywhere”) at 50 paise on recharging with Rs48, Rs77 and Rs123 recharge cards—the Rs48 recharge card has a validity of six months, the latter two have a validity of one year. “Regional Packs” (south India, for example) are available with Rs35-39 recharge cards. STD calls to certain metros will be charged at 50 paise when you recharge with a Rs22 recharge card.
The T&Cs say that in certain states (such as Maharashtra), the first minute of the day will be charged at the standard rate for STD calls. The standard rate is not specified. If you recharge with the “everyone, everywhere @ 50 paise” recharge vouchers, no daily rental is applicable.
State-run BSNL has revised its special tariff vouchers which offer STD calls at 50 paise. Its India Golden 50 voucher, which offers local and STD calls to any network at 50 paise, is now available for Rs99 (Rs123 earlier). India Golden 50 Plus, which offers local and STD calls within the network at 50 paise and to other networks at 75 paise, is now available for Rs58 (it was Rs49 previously).
These voucher rates are inclusive of service tax and education cess. However, these vouchers are valid only for 30 days and carry no talk time. Not very attractive, given that several other operators are offering lifetime validity!
Pay per second! The cheapest?
When it comes to cheap calling, how can one forget Tata DoCoMo? Tata DoCoMo was one of the game changers: It set the ball rolling by offering calls at “per second” pulse rates.
DoCoMo offers just one pre-paid plan. The pack costs Rs49 and comes with lifetime validity and a talk time of Rs5. Local and STD calls to any network are charged at 1 paisa per second.
Here are the conditions. A minimum recharge of Rs200 every six months is required to avail of the scheme. Also, for STD calls, the first 27,000 seconds (450 minutes) in a month are charged at 1 paisa each; beyond this, the rate becomes 2 paise per second for that month. Tata DoCoMo has recently announced full talk time on recharge above Rs100.
BSNL offers “per second” pulse through a special tariff voucher and the local call rates are the same as Tata DoCoMo’s. STD rates, however, stand at 2 paise per second. The pack costs Rs45 (inclusive of service tax), but the validity is for only 30 days and there is no talk time on the voucher.
Airtel, which had stated that it wouldn’t join the tariff war, also introduced “pay per second” under its “Freedom Plan”. But the plan is not as attractive as other offerings. Under this, Airtel-to-Airtel local and STD are charged at 1 paisa per second, while STD and local calls to other networks are charged at 1.2 paise per second. It also offers 175 free local minutes per month (to any network) under the plan. To avail of the plan, pre-paid customers need to get recharge vouchers which range between Rs21 and Rs97, but the validity is just a year. Post-paid customers have to opt for the Freedom 249 Plan to avail of the tariff.
Vodafone pre-paid customers have to recharge using the Rs251 recharge card to avail of the 1 paisa per second tariff for local and STD calls. All other charges will be as per the user’s base plan. However, the T&Cs say there is no specific validity attached to the talk time, which is around Rs225.50.
MTS, from Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd, has also introduced a “per second” pulse plan called “MTalk” in New Delhi and Kolkata. Under this plan, local calls on the MTS network are charged at as low as 1 paisa per 2 seconds. No other provider seems to match this. Local calls to other mobile phones and STD calls are charged at 1 paisa per second. Available for Rs99, it has a talk time of Rs10.
The best part is that MTS offers recharge vouchers called “Msavers”, which cost Rs30 and are valid for 30 days. With these vouchers, you can enjoy services at half the rate of the MTalk plan. For instance, the “local” voucher offers local calls at 1 paisa per 2 seconds, the “Night talk” voucher offers local calls between 11pm and 7am at 1 paisa per 4 seconds and the “Weekend” voucher lets you make local calls on Saturday and Sunday at 1 paisa per 4 seconds.
Before taking a call
The message here: Don’t get carried away by the rates. They are not the only important criterion. Network strength and call-drop rates play a major role. Bad networks and high call-drop rates mean you shell out more money. Be sure to read the riders. For more information, you can visit the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) website. And remember, if a plan seems too good to be true, maybe it won’t be around for long.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is planning to introduce an online mutual fund (MF) platform by March. The proposed platform will be more like a share trading floor where investors can buy and sell MF units without a broker, just by accessing the Web portal—after the abolition of entry load, brokers are no longer interested in selling MFs. Investors will be able to check their entire portfolio on one portal and switch between schemes of different fund houses.
Home loan from SBI
State Bank of India (SBI), India’s largest lender, has extended its “My Home Campaign” till 31 March. It was launched initially on 8 August for three months. The bank offers three products under the campaign. In the SBI Hi-Five Home Loan, a fixed rate of 8% a year is charged for five years for loans up to Rs5 lakh and a maximum tenure of 10 years. For loans of Rs5-15 lakh, the interest rate is 8% a year for the first year and 8.5% for the second and third years. You can avail this loan as an overdraft, with the possibility of saving interest under the SBI MaxGain scheme. This is favoured by the salaried class. If you are looking for high-end properties, there is the SBI Advantage Home scheme. It has a fixed interest of 8% a year for the first year and 9% for the second and third years of the loan.
Bharti Axa Life Insurance Co. has launched a new term plan, Elite Secure, which provides coverage till the age of 75, irrespective of the age at entry. The minimum entry age for the plan is 18 and the minimum sum assured is Rs25 lakh. The plan may be bought for a term of 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 years, or till the age of 75. Two riders can be attached to the plan—critical illness, and accidental death and disability benefit riders. The policyholders of Bharti Axa’s existing term plan, SecureConfident (with a minimum sum assured of Rs25 lakh), are being upgraded automatically to Elite Secure’s rates.
If you have a motor insurance policy, remember that if your vehicle breaks down owing to normal wear and tear, the towing charges will not qualify for indemnification under the policy. But if the vehicle is disabled as a result of damage covered under the policy, the towing charges are payable. In fact, a comprehensive car policy also provides for payment of a reasonable cost to protect the car in the event of an accident, move it to the nearest repair shop and re-deliver it to the insured. The liability of the insurers for all these costs is limited to Rs2,500.
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