Billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio on Tuesday said it will increase mobile phone call and data charges in the next few weeks in compliance with rules, as it followed similar announcements by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea on tariff hike.
Jio, which had stormed the telecom sector with free voice calls and dirt cheap data, had for the first time last month decided to charge phone calls by its users to rival phone networks to compensate for interconnect usage charges.
In a statement on Tuesday, Jio said that the telecom regulator TRAI is likely to initiate consultation process for revision in telecom tariffs.
The company underlined its commitment to bringing the 40 crore 2G customers to experience and participate fully in the Digital India eco-system, and pledged its full support to providing the best quality and experience to all its customers.
"Like other operators, we will also work with the government and comply with the regulatory regime to strengthen the industry to benefit Indian consumers and take measures including appropriate increase in tariffs in next few weeks in a manner that does not adversely impact data consumption or growth in digital adoption, and sustains investments," Jio said.
The company did not divulge the extent of price hike in the offing.
"Despite the staggering growth in data-consumption and 4G coverage across the country, there are still over 40 crore Indian consumers who have not benefitted from the advent of the latest technologies. We believe that the ambitious objectives of the ‘Digital India’ mission can be achieved only if India is made `2G-mukt' in the shortest time-frame possible," Jio said.
The government and the sector regulator TRAI should mandate this through policy, it added.
"This requires continued investment at an industry level. The whole industry needs to come up the curve and raise standards to meet the aspirations of Indian citizens and fulfill the nation’s digital agenda," the statement added.
The operator - known for its aggressive stance on pricing since it launched services in 2016 - said it is committed to bringing the 40 crore 2G customers to experience and participate fully in the Digital India eco-system.
The company said it will continuously innovate in the digital eco-system to provide affordable services and products to Indian consumers.
"Jio is committed to always being regulatory compliant, and work with the industry to keep the telecom sector a vibrant part of the Indian economy and a vital engine for our country’s growth," it said.
Jio said that as a technology disruptor and force multiplier, it acutely understands the transformative role telecom and digital services are playing for the Indian economy and society today.
"Jio has enabled India as the world’s largest data-market growing from 20 crore GB per month in 2016 to over 600 crore GB per month now," it said.
The company had a subscriber base of 355.2 million, as on September 30, 2019.
Confronted with intense competition and unprecedented statutory dues, older operators Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea had on Monday announced a hike in mobile phone call and data charges from December saying the increase was warranted for viability of their business. Like Jio, the two telcos did not quantify the increase in rates but instead said that the hike will be effective beginning next month.
A TRAI source told PTI earlier on Tuesday that the telecom regulator will wait for operators to report their new tariffs to the authority before taking a view on whether the revised pricing is within the regulatory framework.
Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel last week had reported a combined loss of Rs 74,000 crore for the second quarter ended September 2019, mainly on account of statutory dues arising from the recent Supreme Court order on adjusted gross revenue (AGR).
The apex court has upheld the government's position on including revenue from non-telecommunication businesses in calculating the annual AGR of telecom companies, a share of which has to be paid as licence and spectrum fee to the exchequer. The ruling over statutory liabilities had prompted a rush for provisioning by telecom companies.
While Vodafone Idea posted a loss of Rs 50,921 crore -- the highest-ever quarterly loss by any corporate in India -- Airtel reported a loss of Rs 23,045 crore for the September quarter. In contrast, Jio had posted a 45.4 per cent jump in its standalone net profit to Rs 990 crore for the second quarter of 2019-20 fiscal, driven by growth in its subscriber base. The company had posted a net profit of Rs 681 crore in the same quarter a year ago.