The Cellular Operators Association of India had said that the operators had incurred a cost of Rs 600 crore by such extension.
Though mobile operators have extended the validity of the subscribers who fall in the low-income, pre-paid category till May 3 – the period of extended lockdown – these users cannot make outgoing calls but can only receive incoming calls.
This is being seen as not a proper kind of relief for this section of people as they automatically become dependent on their benefactors. They will not be able to communicate for any of their needs with their kith and kin who fall in similar category.
Mobile operators and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India justify the measure of allowing only incoming calls stating that a very small section of subscribers are thus affected and somebody up the social rung can always recharge on their behalf. Further, operators maintain that by seeing their usage pattern they have found that such users use their phones for mostly incoming calls. But critics say that such usage pattern does not hold in times of crisis.
In the first round, when the operators had on March 30 extended the validity till April 17 they had credited a talktime of Rs 10 each in the account of such subscribers. Reliance Jio had provided 100 free outgoing calls. However, no such thing was done in the second extension.
The Cellular Operators Association of India had said that the operators had incurred a cost of Rs 600 crore by such extension. Divided amongst three operators, this amount comes to roughly Rs 200 crore each which will be around 2% of their revenues. The COAI’s logic was that if the extension needs to be broad-based then the government should reimburse the operators by dipping into the Universal Social Obligation Fund (USOF).
There are around 500 million 2G users, of which around 200 million fall in the category who generally recharge from physical stores.