New Delhi: If Airtel has its way, consumers will have to pay to watch IPL on JioCinema.
In an anti-consumer move, Bharti Airtel has reached out to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and filed a complaint on offers of Live TV channels with broadband plans by Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited.
Reliance Jio has dismissed Bharti Airtel’s recent complaint calling the Sunil Mittal-led telco’s move a deliberate, malicious attempt to defame Jio’s consumer-friendly tariffs and protect its narrow interests.
It is learnt from industry sources that Airtel maybe proxy-fighting on Disney Star’s behalf, the TV rights holder for IPL. As per BARC data, Star is struggling both in terms and viewers and advertisers for IPL 16. Whereas, JioCinema with its free, engaging and innovating streaming has been able to get record advertisers and viewers
Airtel has one third of its users tied to 2G. It has 370 million mobile subscribers, out of which more than 135 million customers are still on 2G.
“Airtel’s 2G users have to pay 155 every 24 days (more than Rs 190 for a month) to just stay connected, which was free earlier and 49 Rs for 28 days just 2-3 years back. 200% hike in such a short time. The data charges are effectively 150 per GB for these customers. They do not get any incoming facility after recharge. It is blocked after 7 days if you do not shell out 155,” said a telecom expert.
Airtel earlier wanted to charge for incoming calls on its network and was against unlimited voice- effectively the low income subscribers end up paying for the same.
Every year, the service provider wants to increase tariffs primarily for feature phone users. These phones are used by the poor consumers, who cannot afford smartphones, in which they can get unlimited voice and data services. Airtel always makes complaints against low cost offers by others.
“Their DTH prices are highest in the market. The most basic package that comes free everywhere costs Rs. 227 on Airtel,” a DTH company executive said.
“But on Airtel’s cost side, it seems the company wants everything for free. They wanted free spectrum or very low-cost spectrum for mobile services, free spectrum for its company one-web for satellite communication and wanted to continue using free spectrum by license extension only. Airtel wanted waivers of AGR dues, low spectrum charges despite taking free administrative spectrum,” said a long time telecom watcher.
“The service provider regularly fights cases to avoid government payments but rarely does anything to reduce and set costs and forces its 4G and 5G on everyone. When free voice is available to smartphone users – also in the form of applications like WhatsApp, why does Airtel continue to charge exorbitant tariffs from its Poor consumers? Why does Airtel continue to oppose affordable services provided by others,” said another expert.
“This is clearly because, Airtel wants to make super normal profits at the cost of poor consumers as well as Government,” the expert added.