The telecom regulator continues to examine all plans by operators including bundled and cashback offers, and will intervene in case it finds anything contrary to the regulations, TRAI Chairman R S Sharma said today. Sharma refused to be drawn into commenting on the new plans by any specific operator but emphasised that examination of offers unveiled by telcos is a “continuous process” of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The TRAI chief was responding to a query on the telecom operators teaming up with handset makers to bring low-cost bundled handsets into the market. Also, newcomer Jio has yet again opened a new front in price war by lining up cashback and vouchers on certain recharges. “I don’t want to comment on operator-specific plans. All offers by telcos to the customers are continuously examined in TRAI including bundled offers, including cashback offers and other kinds of offers…so we will continue to examine them,” Sharma told PTI. He asserted that in case TRAI found anything contrary to the regulations during the course of its examination, it would immediately reach out to the concerned operator to stop the said plan.
At the same time, he pointed out, telecom tariffs are under forbearance (operators are only required to report their plans to the regulator within seven days of launching them). Another TRAI official who did not wish to be named said that while individual plans are continuously looked into, the regulator is “happy” with the accelerated pace of conversion of devices into 4G and VoLTE (Voice over Long-Term Evolution) compliant smartphones as it will ensure that the handsets too are compatible with modern technologies being deployed at the back-end by operators. The telecom market seems to be entering into another brutal round of price war, with players redesigning their post-paid plans to woo customers and also unveiling new bundled offerings with smartphone makers.
In the last few weeks, telecom service providers have joined forces with mobile phone manufacturers to bring bundled 4G smartphones that give consumers attractive combination of low-cost handset along with voice and data plans. To counter JioPhone, India’s largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel recently teamed up with Celkon and Karbonn Mobiles to offer low-cost bundled 4G smartphones under its new initiative ‘Mera Pehla Smartphone’.
Vodafone India too has partnered with mobile handset firm Micromax to launch a 4G smartphone at an ‘effective price’ of Rs 999. Reliance Jio is now expected to push the competitive heat in the telecom sector up several notches as it starts offering cashback and benefits totalling Rs 2,599 to its Jio Prime members opting for recharge of Rs 399 and above.