Prepaid or postpaid mobile subscription: Which is better in India?


In 2011, Nielsen’s Survey titled Mobile Youth Around the World pointed out that 97% of the Indian youth use prepaid mobile connections. Assuming that the numbers haven’t changed drastically, the recent announcement by mobile giant Vodafone to hike its call tariff for postpaid users in the Mumbai circle by up to 20% sounds irrational. Or does it?

prepaid vs postpaid

Let’s put prepaid against postpaid head to head and check out which is better for Indian mobile users.

Prepaid vs. Postpaid: Prepaid for minimum to low usage

For people who have very low mobile phone usage, the prepaid connection is a clear winner. For example, you use the mobile to make only one or two outgoing calls every day. These calls don’t last longer than a minute or two. At the usual charge of either 50p per minute or 1p per second, the maximum monthly recharge that you are looking to do is in the range of Rs. 60 to Rs. 100.

There may be a 10% +/- depending on whether you call within your own network (OnNet) or to mobile phones in other networks (OffNet). Worst case scenario, you can get an extra top up in a month when you have exceeded your normal phone calls. A local SMS will cost you Rs. 1.

Mobile users who are on a tight budget will definitely prefer prepaid over postpaid connection as there is no monthly rental. The simple flexibility of ‘recharging only when you want and what you can afford’ lures mobile users who don’t wish to spend a lot of money on mobile phone service.

Additionally, users today also have access to many different ways to recharge including via online portals or net banking. Another advantage of using prepaid mobile services is the fact that sim cards can be bought over the counter from many shops.

Prepaid vs. Postpaid: Postpaid for medium to high usage

For people who have a medium to high mobile phone usage, a postpaid connection definitely seems to be the way to go. Let’s take a similar example and suppose that you use your mobile phone for about 30 minutes of outgoing calls daily, and consider this ‘medium usage’. If this was done on a regular prepaid connection at either 50p per minute or 1p per second, it would cost somewhere in the range of Rs. 450 to Rs. 540 per month.

On the other hand, if you happened to use a ‘Rs. 399 monthly’ postpaid connection from Vodafone in the Mumbai circle, you would have already been provided with 800 minutes of free local talktime. That’s already 200 minutes or more than 3 hours of talktime on top of your daily 30 minute doze of outgoing chit chat on your mobile phone.

Anything above the 800 minutes will be charged at 50p per minute for OnNet and OffNet calls. So head to head for medium usage, postpaid beats prepaid in terms of value. A local SMS on post-paid will cost you Rs. 0.5.

For people who use their mobiles for more than 30 minutes of outgoing calls every day, the answer is a no brainer as postpaid is clearly cheaper and more convenient. Higher minimum monthly rentals allow more freebies including free minutes, SMSes and other services.

Postpaid users also have the choice of getting their own numbers. Additionally and unlike prepaid, outgoing won’t be barred once you reach a certain amount. This is a great boon for the folks who have extremely high mobile phone usage and are not worried about massive bills.

Mobile users with specific requirements

If you happen to have abnormally high usage of particular services like SMS, internet usage, STD calls, International calls/SMS or continuous calls to just one number, you should ask your service provider if they have plans / packs that address your requirement.

In most cases, service providers cater to these needs by giving offers like ‘Friends and Family offer’, ‘SMS offer’, ‘Night Speak’, ‘SMS pack’, ‘Data pack’, ‘Group Benefit’, etc. Typical situations when you may want to consider taking up an offer are

  • Continuous calls to only one number
  • Abnormally high SMS usage but low call usage
  • High internet usage but minimum call usage
  • High international calls/SMS but low local usage
  • Mobile phone usage only during night hours
  • Continuous calls to OnNet numbers only
  • Calls to OffNet numbers only
  • Most calls are within a group of friends/family

If you find yourself to be just another average mobile phone user who has really specific requirements, the rule of thumb is "Prepaid for minimum to low usage and postpaid for medium to high usage"

The above comparison was generic and reflects approximate figures based on the currently available basic prepaid and postpaid plans from Vodafone in the Mumbai circle. They have been accessed via Vodafone India’s website.

  1. k k rao says

    Those who are making more calls per day, Postpaid is Better
    For less consumbption people, prepaid is better.

  2. […] youth mobile users are known to opt for prepaid over postpaid. Last year, a Nielson survey pointed out that 97% of them used prepaid mobile connections. In this […]

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