Jio entered the Indian telecom industry about in last September, and in the year since then the whole sector has undergone a sea change. With low-cost data and bundled local and STD calls becoming the norm, we saw tariffs hitting new lows and pack validities new highs. In fact, Reliance Jio and its Jio Phone are now compelling telecom operators to branch out into hardware as well, with Idea Cellular confirming its plans for a Rs. 2,500 handset and Airtel also said to be in talks for a Rs. 2,500 smartphone. VoLTE is also picking up, with Airtel joining Reliance Jio in offering VoLTE, Vodafone and Idea agreed to a merger, and BSNL looking to both 4G VoLTE and 5G to become future-ready. As a market, of course, India leapfrogged everyone to grab the pole position in data consumption, according to Jio.
But with so much happening in the market, it has become difficult to determine which plan is best suited for your needs. We take a look at the best telecom plans offered by Reliance Jio, Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, BSNL, and Aircel since Jio services went paid in April to help you figure out which one offers the best value for your money.
With its launch in September last year, Reliance Jio revealed the Jio Welcome Offer, with free data, calling, SMS, and app services to customers. While the operator claims calling will remain free on its VoLTE network, its promotional launch offer for free data, SMS, and app services was extended for another three-months from January with the Happy New Year offer. Reliance Jio started its paid services in April, and alongside also introduced the three month Jio Summer Surprise offer for customers who purchase the Jio Prime membership - at Rs. 99 - valid until March 2018.
The Jio Summer Surprise offer provides 1GB 4G data per day up to 90 days at Rs. 303 and 2GB 4G data per day up to three months at Rs. 499. Postpaid customers get 60GB of 4G data for the billing cycle, with the FUP set at 2GB per day. However, this offer did not last long - with TRAI ordering Jio to end its complimentary services - and was pulled by Reliance Jio within a few days. As its substitute, the company came up with a similar offer Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan offer for Prime users that offers 1GB data per day up to three months for Rs. 309 and 2GB data per day up to three months at Rs. 509. There's one major difference between the Summer Surprise and Dhan Dhana Dhan offers however - three additional months of complimentary services.
If you were amongst the first people to opt for Jio Prime and make subsequent recharge of Rs. 303 or higher value, you became eligible for the Summer Surprise offer, which gave you complimentary free data, SMS, and app services free for up to three months, after which the Rs. 303 (or higher) recharge value will become effective.
Customers who missed availing the Jio Summer Surprise offer and went for the Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan offer did not get any of the above described services free for the first three months. The value recharges for Rs. 309 and Rs. 509 covered the 1GB per day and 2GB per day up to three months respectively. Post three months, customers will have to make recharges afresh on their Jio numbers to continue services.
Now that the Jio Summer Surprise offer has begun expiring for the early adopters, Jio has launched new plans to ensure customers get the best deals. First off, there's the Rs. 399 pack that Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan offer for another 84 days by providing 1GB data per day, along with all the other services. The other new Jio plan, priced at Rs. 349, provides users with 20GB data for 56 days, with no daily limit on data consumption; however, users will get 10GB data for the first 28 days and the remaining 10GB for the other 28 days with this plan, instead of 20GB together.
The Rs. 309 and Rs. 509 Jio plans now come with 56-day validities, with 1GB and 2GB daily data consumption, respectively. Therefore, users will get more data and more validity at the same price with the revised plans. Similar is the case with the Rs. 999 and Rs. 1,999 plans, which now come with 90 days (90GB) and 120 days (155GB) validity, instead of 60 days (60GB) and 90 days (125GB) earlier, respectively. The Rs. 4,999 and Rs. 9,999 plans with 180-day (350GB) and 360-day (750GB) validities have been upgraded to provide 210-day (380GB) and 390-day (780GB) validities as well.
Apart from plans for smartphones, the company has launched an exclusive plan for JioPhone, its self-branded feature phone. Buyers of the handset can choose the Rs. 153 plan with free calls and SMSes, unlimited Internet (high-speed Internet capped at 500MB per day), and access to Jio apps. There's separate plan for Jio Phone at Rs. 309, which provides the same benefits as the Rs. 153 plan, but also allows users to connect the handset with a TV using a proprietary cable.
After Jio made its services paid in April this year, Airtel came up with data-heavy plans to attract customers. In March, it firstly launched the Rs. 345 plan for prepaid users with 28GB of high-speed data for 28 days. While the daily FUP was set at 1GB per day, customers were able to use only 500MB of data during the day, while the remaining 500MB was allotted for the 12am to 6am period.
In April, Airtel upgraded the Rs. 345 recharge pack to offer double the data to 2GB per day without any restrictions on the timing that was previously offered. For similar customers who did not want any time restriction on the data were offered a new Rs. 549 plan that provided 1GB high-speed data per day for 28 days without the time constraints.
Both the plans offered free local and STD calls as well but with some caveats. Airtel users who made calls beyond the 1,200 bundled minutes were charged at 30p per minute (for local and STD calls). Moreover, Airtel capped the free calls per day at 300 minutes, after which the charges were 30p per minute. Additionally, calling more than 100 unique users in a week entailed call tariff of 30p per minute for the rest of the validity.
While the Rs. 549 plan is still available for users to opt-in, the Rs. 345 plan has been revised to Rs. 349 per month and the daily data cap has been reduced to 1GB. The calling benefits are still the same as the original plans, and the day and night time restriction is no longer applicable in either.
Customers who wanted extra validity with same data benefits were offered two more plans by Airtel. The Rs. 244 recharge pack offered 1GB data per day for a maximum of 70 days, only for 4G handset and SIM card users. The offer came with unlimited STD and local calls, but users could only get a maximum of 300 minutes of free Airtel to Airtel calls per day, and 1,200 minutes of free calls on the network for a week. After the bundled calls were exhausted, the calls were charged Rs. 0.10 per minute.
Another plan with the validity of 70 days was the Rs. 399 pack that offered 1GB data per day on 4G handsets and SIM cards. The primary difference between the Rs. 244 and Rs. 399 plans was that users could make unlimited calls on other networks as well in the latter but with an upper restriction of 3,000 minutes after which the calls were charged at Rs. 0.10 per minute. On-net calls made on Airtel network were capped similar to the Rs. 244 plan with the maximum of free 300 minutes per day and 1,200 minutes per week.
Talking about the Airtel plans available at the time of writing, the company is offering the Rs. 349 pack and Rs. 549 pack with the data benefits similar to what we mentioned above. However, there is a new Rs. 255 plan that comes with full talk value of Rs. 255 along with 2GB 3G/ 4G data for 28 days for prepaid users.
While the above offers were meant for the Airtel prepaid users, the postpaid users were not left behind by the company. Airtel introduced the Airtel Surprise offer for its postpaid users that gave them 30GB of free 4G data up to three months (10GB per month) from March 13. This postpaid data offer was extended towards the end of last month and continues to be available under a new name - Airtel Monsoon Surprise offer. The data benefits are exactly the same and postpaid users can avail them via the MyAirtel app.
In August, Airtel launched its own Rs. 399 prepaid plan to compete with the new Rs. 399 Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan Offer, offering the same 1GB data per day with 84-day validity. As for the bundled calls, you get 1,000 minutes of free calls to any network for a 7-day period; if the 1,000-minute limit is exhausted, the calls will be charged at Rs. 0.10 per minute for Airtel-to-Airtel calls and Rs. 0.30 per minute for calls to other networks.
After that came the Rs. 349 pack by Airtel with 28GB data and the same number of bundled calls as above. The plan has validity of 28 days and the data is doled out at 1GB per day. The Rs. 399 plan was revised to offer 28-day validity, 28GB data at 1GB per day, and bundled calls. The difference between the Rs. 349 and Rs. 399 Airtel plans is that the latter offers free outgoing roaming calls as well.
Soon after Reliance Jio and Airtel started the tariff war, Vodafone joined in. It launched the Rs. 352 recharge pack that offered 1GB data per day for 56 days, or two recharge cycles of 28 days. Known as the Vodafone Super Offer pack, it additionally provided unlimited local and STD calls for the same validity period.
While the aforementioned pack was for prepaid users, Vodafone offered free data to its RED postpaid users in April this year. The company was offering either 3GB data per month for 12 months (totalling to 36GB) or 9GB data every month for duration of three months (totalling to 27GB).
In a bid to attract existing customers to its SuperNet 4G network, Vodafone in April announced that customers in Mumbai could avail 4GB of 4G data on 4G handsets on upgrading to a 4G SIM card on a 4G handset. It was a one-time offer available for existing Vodafone subscribers after they upgrade across Mumbai. While Vodafone prepaid customers could avail this one-time offer with 4G free data for a period of 10 days, postpaid customers were to receive same 4GB data benefit till the next billing date of their connection.
Vodafone soon started focusing on low validity recharge packs as rivals were busy with data and calling packs with more validity. In May this year, Vodafone announced a Rs. 19 recharge pack that offered one day of validity with 100MB of 4G data and unlimited local and STD calls to Vodafone network only. While celebrating the SuperWeek, Vodafone also launched Rs. 49 and Rs. 89 recharge plans that offered seven days of validity with 250MB of 4G data and unlimited local and STD calls to just Vodafone customers and 250MB of 4G data with same validity, but calls on other networks for free 100 minutes, in addition to unlimited Vodafone local and STD calls, in a respective manner.
After a couple of data and calling plans, Vodafone came back in June with a new recharge plan to mark the occasion of Ramzan in June. However, it was only confined to the northern circles of Uttar Pradesh West and Uttarakhand. With Ramzan Special Pack, 2G and 3G customers could enjoy the unlimited data offer for Rs 5. and Rs. 19, respectively. 2G customers could get unlimited local and STD calls plus unlimited data for Rs. 253. Under the offer, customers also got unlimited local and STD calls plus 1GB data per day for Rs. 345.
Later, the company came up with Rs. 786 recharge pack called the 'Vodafone Ramzan 786 Plan' with benefits varying with different telecom circles. For Assam and North-East circle, the pack offered unlimited voice calling, unlimited national roaming, and 25GB data at Rs. 786 for postpaid users. On the other hand, prepaid subscribers from Rajasthan were offered full talk time and ISD calling to UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia at just Rs. 0.14 per second also at Rs. 786 under the same plan rebranded as 'Vodafone Holy Ramzan Pack'. In addition to this, Rajasthan users were also offered 'Vodafone FRC 445' with unlimited local and national calls, plus 1GB 4G/3G data daily, with a 70 days validity period. Alternately, 'Vodafone FRC 295' provided unlimited Vodafone to Vodafone calls along with 1GB 4G/3G data per day for 70 days.
In June, Vodafone launched the Rs. 29 recharge pack, meant only for data usage in the night between 1am to 6am, that offered unlimited Internet 3G/ 4G data to the users. The company claimed that it roughly translates to Rs. 6 per hour for unlimited Internet to its users for the mentioned timings.
Lastly, Vodafone launched a new offer to include a free Netflix membership for its postpaid users who have subscribed to Vodafone RED plans worth Rs. 1,299 or higher. Depending on the subscription, the validity of the free Netflix membership varies, giving the postpaid users up to one year of the subscription. Additionally, postpaid users get 30GB of free data under the RED 1299 unlimited plan.
Presently, the Vodafone recharge plans listed on the company's website include the Rs. 149 plan and Rs. 349 plan. The Rs. 149 plan offers unlimited local and STD Vodafone calls along with 2GB data (for 4G handset & 4G SIM), 300MB data (only 4G handset), and 50MB data (non-4G handset) for 28 days. The Rs. 349 plan provides unlimited local and STD calls on all networks and landlines along with 50MB of 3G/4G data for 28 days. Customers with 4G handsets will get 1GB data additionally.
The Vodafone plans released recently are targetting new 4G subscribers, and do not offer the same benefits to the company's existing customers. First up is the Rs. 244 Vodafone recharge that provides 1GB data per day and bundled calls (both local and STD, on Vodafone network only) for 70 days. However, the 70-day validity is only for the first time you buy the recharge pack, and you will get only 35-day validity the second time you purchase the Rs. 244 pack. For existing Vodafone customers upgrading to 4G, there's the Rs. 346 plan, which comes with 1GB data per day, bundled calls to any network (300 free minutes per day, 1,200 per week) with 56-day validity.
For students joining its 4G network, the company has the 'Campus Survival Kit', priced at Rs. 352. It comes with 1GB of data per day for 84 days, as well as discount coupons and a free messenger bag. However, there's a catch - you need to purchase the Rs. 445 recharge for the first 84-day period, and only after that the recharge value will go down to Rs. 352.
In Rajasthan circle, Vodafone launched the Rs. 348 prepaid pack with 1GB data per day and unlimited local and STD calls. However, the validity of this plan is just 28 days, a third of the competing Jio recharge plan. Then there was the new Rs. 392 Vodafone pack that offers 1GB data per day and unlimited STD and local calls for 28 days, a revised version of the Rs. 346 pack.
For those who travel frequently, Vodafone launched a new unlimited calling and data plan at as low as Rs. 180 per day. This plan is applicable in popular destinations of Europe, such as the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Greece, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, and Hungary. The plans is available at different price points on offer, and user can choose between plans based on validities, from Rs. 500 for 24 hours to Rs. 5,000 for 28 days.
Idea Cellular also entered the data tariff war, and in March launched the Rs. 297 recharge pack that provided 1GB data per day for 70 days on a 4G SIM and 4G smartphone. The offer came with 300 minutes of free calls per day and 1,200 minutes per week to other Idea customers, after which 30p per minute was charged. It then came up with a Rs. 447 prepaid pack that gave 1GB data per day and unbilled calls to any network for 70 days. The bundled calls with this Idea pack to other networks were capped at 3,000 minutes for the 70-day period. Users were charged 30p per minute on exhausting bundled calls to other networks. The cap for un-billed Idea-to-Idea calls were the same as those of the Rs. 297 pack.
The telco was also providing users with 1GB of high-speed data with the Rs. 348 recharge pack, along with unlimited free calls; a total of 28GB data per month. Apart from this, the operator was providing 3GB of 3G/ 4G data for free with the new Idea Rs. 499 and Rs. 999 postpaid plans in March. Idea's new Ultimate 999 postpaid plan, priced at Rs. 999, came with 8GB of bundled data per billing cycle for users with 4G phones, while those with 3G/2G handsets get 5GB data. Along with this, the operator also provided customers 1GB of free data as part of its 'Acquisition Offer'. In addition, customers who upgraded to a new 4G handset in April on the Ultimate 999 plan (which comes with 5GB of complimentary data) received 1GB of data free every month until December 31, 2017, totalling 12GB of free data.
The postpaid customers of Idea were offered a new pack in April that gave them up to 10GB data per month, up to three months. Known as the 'Data Jackpot', users will get a minimum of 1GB per month for three months at Rs. 100 per month with a maximum of 10GB data. Another pack from Idea launched in March-end was the Rs. 300 pack that provided customers 1GB data per day per billing cycle (roughly Rs. 10 per GB) to those with 4G smartphones. The recharge pack was made available for customers with rental plans of Rs. 199 or higher, and the last date to buy the recharge pack was April 30, 2017; after that, Idea postpaid users could purchase the Rs. 300 pack every month for a year to get the data benefits.
Also in May, Idea Cellular on the occasion of the completion of its pan-India 4G network rollout with Mumbai, it offered 10GB of 4G data free to its existing and new customers for the first three months.
In June, Idea came up with a new recharge pack worth Rs. 396 with a 70-day validity that offered 1GB 3G/4G (varies with circle) data per day. Additionally, the customers also received unlimited calls for the 70-day validity period, but only to other Idea numbers. Un-billed calls to other networks were capped at 3,000 minutes for the whole validity, with limits of 300 minutes a day, and 1,200 minutes a week.
Talking about the current availability of tariffs, Idea Cellular is giving 6GB 3G data at Rs. 96 for 28 days with no free call benefits. Apart from this, the Rs. 396 is still available for Idea prepaid customers while the Rs. 297 plan has been revised to Rs. 244 with similar data and calling benefits. There's also a Rs. 197 recharge plan that will give you unlimited local and STD calls along with just 1GB of monthly data for 28 days.
The latest Idea offer to take on Reliance Jio is the new Rs. 453 prepaid pack, which provides 84GB of data for 84 days, with 1GB daily data cap. The data is limited to 3G speeds, and the buyer also gets bundled calls (300 minutes per day and 1,200 minutes per week) for the validity period. This plan competes directly with the Rs. 399 Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan Offer prepaid pack.
State-owned telco BSNL is not aloof from the ongoing battle amongst the industry players either. It launched the BSNL Rs. 333 Triple Ace plan in April that offered 3GB data per day for up to 90 days. However, since BSNL is yet to launch its 4G services, the data consumers would get will be 3G and 2G data, depending on the circle. Another plan worth Rs. 339 with validity of 28 days was launched in March, which came with 25 minutes of free calls to other networks per day. Beyond the free 25 minutes, customers were to be charged at 25p per minute for long phone calls. The offer was limited for 90 days.
BSNL also came up with Rs. 395 BSNL 'Nehle Pe Dehla' plan that provided 2GB of data per day for 71 days, along with bundled local and STD calls. The bundled calls to BSNL numbers were capped at 3,000 minutes and calls to other networks were restricted to 1,800 minutes in the validity period, and there were charges after the exhausting. Another special tariff voucher, called Dil Khol Ke Bol, for Rs. 349 offered unlimited voice calls (local and STD) alongside additional 2GB for a month with a validity of 28 days
Then in June, the company launched the Rs. 444 plan, under which the prepaid subscribers could get 4GB data per day with a validity of 90 days. In a matter of days, BSNL launched the Sixer 666 pack, priced at Rs. 666. It came with 120GB data bundled with unlimited calls for the prepaid subscribers with a validity of 60 days.
In the same month along the lines of Vodafone's Ramzan offer, BSNL too brought special packs for the occasion of Ramzan. Priced at Rs. 786 and Rs. 599, BSNL's plans offered its prepaid subscribers 3GB of data for 90 days with full talk time of Rs. 786 and full balance of Rs. 507 for all purposes, plus Rs. 279 exclusively for voice calls respectively. However, the Rs. 786 pack provides the dedicated Rs. 786 balance only for calls, and cannot be used for sending SMSes, or consuming data if the bundled 3GB is exhausted.
This month, BSNL shifted its focus to its postpaid users and gave them additional data on the standard postpaid plans. BSNL customers who were enrolled under Plan 99 can get 250MB of data compared to zero data benefit previously. Similarly, those with Plan 225 will 1GB data compared to 200MB, and Plan 325 will offer 2GB of data compared to just 250MB data. Users enrolled under Plan 525 and 725 will now get 3GB (earlier 500MB) and 5GB data (earlier 1GB).
A limited period offer to celebrate Onam was also launched by BSNL for its Kerala subscribers. The plan is priced at Rs. 44 and offers 500MB data benefits, 5 paise per minute for BSNL to BSNL calls (10 paise for BSNL to other network calls) for the first 30 days to its new customers only, talk value of Rs. 20, and a validity of 365 days. After you finish the prescribed data, additional data will be charged at 10 paise per MB (Rs. 100/GB). After the 30-day call subsidy, all calls under the Onam Plan, "from anywhere to any network in India," will be charged at one paisa per second.
Aircel has not been as frenzied in launching plans with high bundled data as Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, and BSNL to compete with Jio, but has recently released a few to make sure it remains attractive to buyers. The company launched a Rs. 333 prepaid recharge pack in Karnataka circle, with 30GB bundled data with validity of 30 days; notably, unlike most plans this one doesn't have a restriction on daily data consumption, so users can howsoever much data they choose to within the validity period. In UP (East) circle, there's the Rs. 348 Aircel pack for prepaid users, which has validity of 84 days. It comes with 84GB data, doled out at 1GB per day, as well as unlimited free calls to any network. The Internet speeds with both packs are limited to 3G, unlike Jio's 4G speeds.
While the aforementioned telecom plans from the major five telecom operators are an aggregate of past three months, a bunch of new telecom offers with data heavy benefits can be expected from rival telcos to keep Reliance Jio at bay.
We discussed the Reliance Jio data leak, new Reliance Jio plans, and JioFiber's impending launch in India on Orbital, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS or just listen to this episode by hitting the play button below.