The extension of validity by the telecom operators for their pre-paid subscribers to enable uninterrupted communication during the lockdown does not cover the entire 2G user base, thus causing problem to a section of customers. Roughly, of the total 500 million 2G users, around 200 million have got left out of this facility.
Several pre-paid 2G users FE spoke to said their validity has expired and they are unable to recharge as physical retail outlets are shut.
Though upon the direction of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, telecom operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio, last week extended the validity of pre-paid users till April 17 and credited an additional Rs 10 talk-time in their accounts, it was done on a selective basis.
For instance, Bharti extended this facility to only its 80 million users, against its roughly 189 million 2G users. Similarly, Vodafone Idea has extended the facility to its 100 million users, against its 214 million 2G users. The operators seem to have extended this facility to only the bottom of the pyramid users in the 2G category, who may be recharging for very less amount like Rs 35-45 per month and excluded others. The assumption must have been that the bottom of the pyramid customers do not have access to online modes of recharge and use physical retail stores.
It is only Jio which has covered all of its 70-80 million JioPhone users in the validity extension facility. Though Jio has a fully 4G network and users, the ones who use JioPhones are persons who use low-end 4G phones which are not exactly smartphones and may not be savvy enough to do online recharge.
BSNL and MTNL have also covered their entire pre-paid user base in the extension facility.