Mobile Data War: Idea Again Cuts Rates By Up To 67%

Telecom operator Idea Cellular on Monday announced an up to 67 per cent reduction in 4G and 3G mobile internet rates to compete with rival Bharti Airtel and ward off threat from Reliance Jio.

“Idea Cellular has now slashed the rates of its 4G, 3G BIG Internet packs by up to 67 per cent, providing more value to heavy Internet users who consume data packs of 2GB to 10 GB,” Idea said in a statement.

This is the second move by the company within a week and is triggered by telecom major Bharti Airtel announcing an up to 67 per cent cut in 4G and 3G mobile internet pack rates for pre-paid customers.

“Idea is now offering 10 GB 4G, 3G data pack for just Rs. 990. Idea’s 2 GB data is now priced at just Rs. 349, as against the earlier price of Rs. 449. Idea users will now get 5 GB of 4G, 3G data at just Rs. 649 – a 67 per cent more value than 3GB data earlier,” Idea said in the statement.

Idea said that the reduced tariff for pre-paid users has gone live across all Idea 4G and 3G provider circles, and a postpaid roll-out is underway.

Last week, Reliance Jio claimed to have 15 lakh subscribers of its 4G network even before its commercial launch. The SIM card of Reliance Jio comes bundled with LYF smartphones priced as low as Rs. 2,999.

RJio is offering 90 days of free unlimited 4G mobile internet and voice calling in the SIM cards.

Earlier last week, Idea had announced the price reduction by 45 per cent for light internet users (below 1 GB).

“While the price reduction in our sachet data packs was aimed at inducting more users into the world of Internet, the reduction in rates of BIG Recharge packs now, is aimed at delivering significantly higher Value for Money to our regular internet users,” Idea Cellular chief marketing officer Sashi Shankar said.

This is a second such move by Idea Cellular within a week.Idea has also launched new Freedom Packs, which are low cost data packs starting at just Rs. 35 with validity of four weeks, the statement said.

“Competitive pricing and disruption happened in voice market a few years ago. We are seeing a sequel to that now, in data. There is expectation of disruption in the data space resulting in competitive pricing,” Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP partner Hemant Joshi said.

Asked whether he anticipated more rounds of data war in the run-up to Jio’s commercial launch, MrJoshi said, “The amount and quantum of benefits will be calibrated with the situation on ground…as things unfold different players will react differently.”

While data benefits announced by Airtel and Idea are more or less similar (both are offering similar amount of bonus data to customers), Airtel’s monthly pack is priced marginally higher than Idea.

Commenting on data pricing war that is playing out in the market, Prashant Singhal, global leader for telecom practice at EY, said, “It has to do with economies of scale…as more and more data penetration takes place, rates have to come down.”

The latest move by telecom operators with regard to data pricing combined with drop in handset prices will drive affordability for customers, he added.

On Sunday, Bharti Airtel increased benefits on select pre-paid data recharge packs and sachet packs by offering up to 25-67 per cent more data at the same price. The company said the move would enable customers to stay online longer and download more of their favorite content, thereby enriching mobile internet experience.

In the new 4G-3G monthly pack, Airtel is packing-in 40-67 per cent more data. In the Sachet Packs category, the company is offering 32-48 per cent more data for the same price.

Meanwhile, Airtel has also announced enhancement of 4G capacity in Bangalore. It is the only company at present that operates 4G services in 2 spectrum bands – 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz.

Players like Airtel and Idea have upped the ante in mobile data pricing ahead of the upcoming commercial launch by Reliance Jio.

The company recently said it has over 1.5 million test users on its network although it did not specify a launch date for its commercial operations.

Reliance Jio, which is gearing up to launch its 4G services, had also said that during the recently-concluded quarter, it extended its trial services to all LYF devices users under the Jio LYF Preview Offer.

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