Telecom operator Bharti Airtel on Sunday hiked its mandatory minimum recharge for pre-paid customers to Rs 45 from Rs 23. "...it will be mandatory to recharge with a voucher of Rs 45 or above, every 28 days to avail services," the company said in a public notice.
The new minimum recharge plan will come into effect from Sunday. The announcement pertained to prepaid subscribers of Bharti Airtel and Bharti Hexacom in all service areas, it added.
"In case of non recharge with a voucher of Rs 45 or above at the end of tariff validity period, Airtel reserves the right to provide the plan benefits in a curtailed manner at its own discretion during the grace period of up to 15 days.
"In case of non recharge with voucher of Rs 45 of above, all services will be suspended post the grace period," the company said.
Amid a turbulence in the debt laden sector, Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal had recently said a combination of rock-bottom tariffs and high consumption is killing the telecom industry and sector regulator Trai needs to urgently intervene to strike a balance between the needs for protecting investments and consumer interest.
"We are unnecessarily killing this industry in a manner and way that is not conducive for our industry, and that's why we need Trai intervention," Mittal had said.
The comments of the Airtel chief had come just days after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) initiated talks to prescribe floor price for call and data, and also deferred by one year the scrapping of the charge paid by mobile phone users for calls made to rival networks.
The two moves came as a big boost to old operators like Airtel and Vodafone Idea that are staring at a liability of thousands of crores in unpaid past statutory dues following a Supreme Court ruling.
Through their association, the operators had been pitching to policy makers for fixing a floor rate for calls and data.
The telecom call and data rates are at present under forbearance or not regulated.
But, Trai has now released a consultation paper to fix minimum or floor rates for mobile phone calls and data -- a move that will effectively end the regime of free calling and dirt cheap data.
The outcome is likely to lead to further hike in mobile call and data cost as the industry wants average revenue per user to reach Rs 300 per month from about Rs 125 at present over a period of two years -- better revenue realisation per user will offer a much-needed breather to the stressed telecom industry where debt levels have soared to Rs 7.8 lakh crore.
Bharti Airtel had posted a staggering Rs 23,045 crore net loss for the second quarter ended September 30, due to provisioning of Rs 28,450 crore in the aftermath of the SC ruling on statutory dues.
According to a government data, statutory liabilities in the case of Bharti Airtel add up to nearly Rs 35,586 crore, of which Rs 21,682 crore is licence fee and another Rs 13,904.01 crore is the SUC (spectrum usage charges) dues (excluding the dues of Telenor and Tata Teleservices).