Following the footsteps of Reliance Jio, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Vodafone Idea have announced the discontinuation of "blackout days". This means the subscribers of BSNL and Vodafone Idea won't be levied any additional charges for sending SMS messages on December 31, 2018, and all other special days of the year 2019 and the existing SMS benefits, as per their packs, will be valid throughout 365 days a year. Both telcos were previously offering SMS benefits through their respective packs with an exception for blackout days. This was unlike Reliance Jio that has been offering "no blackout days" to its subscribers since its launch in September 2016.
BSNL in a press statement said that all its consumers would continue to get all the benefits of their plan or special tariff service on the New Year's Eve 2018. The telco has also extended no blackout days for the calendar year 2019.
Vodafone Idea in a separate statement confirmed that with the new move, both Vodafone and Idea subscribers across India would be able to continue availing special SMS benefits as per their packs all 365 days a year - with no exception of blackout days. Notably, Vodafone Idea brought the elimination of special SMS charges on Christmas Days earlier this month.
We've reached out to Bharti Airtel to get clarity on whether the telco is copying the ongoing trend and offering no blackout days starting next year. While the company hasn't yet responded via regular channels, an Airtel customer care executive told Gadgets 360 that Bharti Airtel is still considering five blackout days in a calendar year and prior to all blackout days, the telco sends an intimation to subscribers to inform them the dates on which SMS pack/ discounted rate isn't applicable.
The blackout days were originally aimed to generate some revenue during occasions such as local festivals like Diwali and Holi and global celebrations including New Year. However, with the growth in adoption of instant messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, telecom operators are finding it difficult to garner high volume SMS messages during special occasions.
Having said that, it has been observed that despite having robust support at the backend to enable a large number of message transactions in a day, instant messaging platforms often face server-side outage on global occasions such as New Year.
WhatsApp particularly suffered a global outage for about an hour on the evening of December 31, 2017. The Facebook-owned messaging platform notably saw the delivery of over 20 billion messages by its users in India on New Year's Eve last year that was its highest-ever user activity on a single day. Nevertheless, this isn't the case with SMS messages that are being circulated directly through cellular networks.
As we mentioned, unlike other telcos such as BSNL and Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio is already offering no blackout days to its subscribers. The Mumbai-based telecom operator is also disrupting the market with its attractive data offers.
We discussed what WhatsApp absolutely needs to do in 2019, on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.