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Telcos take steps to keep users from losing call, SMS services after TRAI request

Airtel and Vodafone extended the validity of their prepaid packs for a section of their users after after TRAI requested telcos to do so. “Airtel has extended the prepaid pack validity for over 80 million customers till April 17th, 2020. All these customers will continue to get incoming calls on their Airtel mobile numbers even after the validity of their plan is exhausted,” the company said in a release. Vodafone said in its release that it implemented a similar extension for 100 million customers on feature phones. The latter said it was also adding ten rupees in talktime to these customers’ accounts. The extension comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced shops offering recharges to shut.

“These 80 million customers effectively cover all under-privileged 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, indicating that users buying more sizeable data plans will not be receiving an extension for the moment.

Airtel has over 300 million customers in India, so this extension should affect around a fourth of them. It is unclear how Airtel determined which customers are in need of the extension, while Vodafone clearly said only feature phone users would receive an extension on their recharges.

BSNL has extended users’ SIM card validity, IT Minister Ravi Shankar prasad told ANI, along with a 10 rupee credit for subscribers to make outgoing calls.

Telcos “are required to take necessary steps as deemed fit including extending the validity period to ensure that all prepaid subscribers can enjoy uninterrupted services during the period of lockdown,” TRAI’s letter had said, telling the operators to get back to the regulator on implementation “on priority basis”.

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Jio offers extended free calling

Jio hasn’t extended data packs, but offered JioPhone users free calling and texting, the Hindustan Times reported.

Update: Vodafone has also extended some subscribers’ plan validity; this article has been updated to reflect this.

Update 2: BSNL and Jio have also taken steps to keep users from losing connectivity, but have done so differently. The story and headline have been updated to reflect this.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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