This is how Reliance Jio's rivalry with Airtel, Vodafone and Idea unfolded; best tariff plans for 2017

Raymond Ronamai
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They say 'there is calm before a storm.' There was relative calm among the major telecom operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and BSNL when Reliance Jio first offered free unlimited access to high-speed 4G data, HD voice call, HD video call, SMS, and Jio apps for three months, starting October, under its Welcome Offer. What was to follow next?

Perhaps it was out of miscalculation that things would fall back to normalcy after the offer ended but everything fell apart when Jio announced Happy New Year offer towards the fag end of last year. All the telecom operators started offering attractive tariff plans to retain their existing consumers even as they filed complaints with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in an attempt to halt what it claimed is "unfair business practice."

It's like a one-man army taking on its rivals as Reliance Jio competes with major telecom operators. Interestingly, Reliance Industries has sent a letter to Trai, claiming that Airtel, Vodafone and Idea are using unfair and deceptive tactics to retain its subscribers through offers. It also demanded strong action against the telecom operators for violation of the licence norms, mobile number portability (MNP) guidelines and tariff orders.

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Jio claimed in a letter to Trai that "so far as these MNP offers are concerned, these are in gross violation of extant telecom laws including Telecom Tariff Order, 1999." However, Airtel and Vodafone have vehemently denied the allegation.

Vodafone had earlier complaint to Trai, requesting it to halt Reliance Jio's Summer Surprise that offered three months of free internet and calls for a recharge of Rs 303 or higher. The plan was withdrawn after the intervention of Trai but Jio has launched another plan called Dhan Dhana Dhan, offering 1GB data per day for three months with a recharge of Rs 309.

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Bharti Airtel Ltd had in February filed a complaint with Competition Commission of India (CCI), accusing Reliance Jio of using tactics to enjoy a monopoly in the telecom industry. "It is a strategic business tactic adopted to enhance market power with the objective of eliminating competition which it has succeeded to a large extent during the quarter Oct to Dec 2016 itself," Airtel said in the letter.

Complaints have been filed and so too counter complaints but it appears like the issue will be solved anytime soon. With Reliance Jio offering 84GB data, free unlimited voice calls, free SMS, free national roaming and free access to MyJio entertainment for three months with a recharge of Rs 309 under its Dhan Dhana Dhan deal, its rivals too have joined the tariff war to survive the "dog eat dog" competition.

Airtel is now offering its prepaid subscribers with 1GB of 4G data per day, along with unlimited calls (300 minutes a day) for 70 days with a recharge of Rs 399. It is offering 2GB data per day with unlimited calls for Rs 349, and its validity is 28 days.

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Vodafone has announced Vodafone Delights plan for its post-paid subscribers, offering 24GB for a period of three months, which is basically 8GB per month. The existing Vodafone subscribers can also avail 4GB worth data free of charge by getting a new Vodafone Supernet 4G SIM card. The Rs 344-349 plan for prepaid consumers also offers unlimited calls across all networks in the country and 1GB of 4G data.

Idea Cellular is not lagging behind in the tariff war. It is is planning to launch Rs 297 plan that offers unlimited calls (300 minutes free calls per day and 1,200 minutes per week within Idea network) and 1GB of 4G data per day for 70 days. Its Rs 447 plan also will offer 3,000 minutes free voice calls across all networks in India and 1GB of 4G data per day for 70 days. However, the offers are eligible only for 4G handset users with 4G Idea SIM card.

Well, this could be just the beginning as tariff war among the major telecom operators could intensify in the days to come.

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