Telecom operators Airtel and Vodafone have extended the validity of connections for a section of their user base as large chunk of the consumers struggle to load credit to their connections owing to complete shutdown of workspaces as well as markets being shut due to ongoing 21-day lockdown.
The move comes after a letter from TRAI requesting telecom companies to take necessary steps to ensure that users don’t face hardships amidst the lockdown. The letter dated March 29th, asked these companies to take every possible measure to ensure unlimited services for prepaid customers.
TRAI has also asked for details from telecom providers on the measures they are taking to ensure service availability to customers on priority. Pre-paid services are used by more than 90% of the Indian populace, with almost 800 million active users. The regulator reasoned that subscribers who wish to top up their balances or extend their plans may not be able to do so due to disruptions in services during the lockdown. Steps to extend validity will thus offer relief.
TRAI and the government alike had requested the operators to extend the validity for the prepaid users, given most of them are migrant workers whose livelihood has been seriously affected by the lockdown. The mass exodus of these workers has been in the news for a while now, many of whom completed journeys of hundreds of kilometers to their homes on foot.
In the case of Airtel, the validity of prepaid packages has been extended for 80 Million customers or 1/4th of the company’s customer base until April 17th, 2020. This section of users covers the low-ARPU customers including migrant workers who will bear the brunt of the lockdown more than other economical classes. These customers will continue to receive incoming calls even post the exhaustion of their plan validity.
“These 80 million customers effectively cover all underprivileged households on the Airtel Network. These special measures will particularly benefit migrant workers and daily wage earners who may have been impacted due to the nationwide lockdown to combat COVID-19. All other customers on Airtel’s network are already recharging their accounts using online platforms,” Airtel added.
Vodafone has also followed suit, implementing a similar extension for 100 million customers on feature phones. The company will also be adding ₹10 in talk time to these customers’ accounts.
As to how the users, who will receive the benefits, will be decided isn’t particularly clear at the moment. While Vodafone has said only feature phone will be getting the benefits, nothing as such has been declared from Airtel