The jury is still out on whether Jio will be able to become a viable, profitable venture, but it’s certainly disrupted the telecom sector like nothing else.
Airtel has said that it’s decided to drop all domestic roaming charges across its network. That means that the same rates will apply to consumers wherever they might be in India. It also means that Airtel will no longer charge customers for incoming calls when they’re outside their home circles.
“Starting April 1, 2017, Airtel customers roaming within India will enjoy free incoming calls/SMS and there will be no premium on outgoing calls,” the company said in a statement. The date is no coincidence – 1st April is also the date when Jio will finally become paid, and will offer its plans with free unlimited voice calls.
Airtel has also slashed its international roaming rates, and has simplified international roaming for its customers even when they do not buy roaming packs. After 1st April, an Airtel subscriber who travels abroad without purchasing an international pack will also get the benefits the moment the subscriber has run a bill equaling the value of the lowest international pack.
With its new plans, Airtel is starting to look more and more like Jio, its upstart competitor. Jio offers free lifetime calls no matter where users are placed – Airtel, with its no roaming charges, has taken the first step and eliminated location as factor in call billing. More interestingly, Airtel is also starting to look more like Jio in its marketing and PR – Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani makes Jio’s announcements on Reliance’s grand stage that are livestreamed on Youtube and Facebook; Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal broke from tradition and took to the internet to make his latest announcement. Airtel’s communications is also taking on the aggressive tone that Jio does – its latest video was titled “Airtel Declares War on Roamng.”
Indian customers, meanwhile, would be gleefully watching these rivalries play out. With two of the biggest players having done away with roaming charges, other operators are likely to follow suit. Jio’s entry has certainly shaken up the Indian telecom space, much like the entry of Reliance nearly a decade ago.