Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has requested the telecom operators to extend the validity period of prepaid users so that subscribers get uninterrupted services without worrying about the recharge amidst the 21-day nationwide lockdown.
Meanwhile, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) last week on March 18, urged the consumers to use data networks responsibly to ensure smooth working of the critical services on the communications infrastructure.
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Validity Extension Requested Due to Recharge Problems!
TRAI was quoted by ET, “Though the telecommunication services have been considered as essential services and thus granted an exception from closing down. However, lockdown may adversely affect the working of customer service centers/point of sale locations.” The regulator said that all shops will be closed due to the lockdown and if anyone wants to recharge their number via offline mode, hence a problem will arise for such customers.
TRAI has also asked for the details of the steps being taken to ensure availability of uninterrupted telecom services to such customers on a “priority basis”. TRAI has told all the operators on March 29, “…you are required to take necessary steps as deemed fit including extending the validity period to ensure that all prepaid subscribers can enjoy uninterrupted services during the period of lockdown.”
The regulator wrote a letter to Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone-Idea, BSNL, and MTNL, urging them to take all the necessary steps to help users during this lockdown period.
Jio Already Taking Initiatives To Help Customers Recharge Their Numbers!
Reliance Jio has announced that its numbers can be recharged from 90,000 ATMs. The company took to Twitter to make the announcement which reads: “Recharge your Jio number at your nearest ATM.” The telco has partnered with nine banks namely HDFC Bank, State Bank of India, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Citi Bank, DCB Bank, AUF Bank, and Standard Chartered Bank.
Jio also said that customers have to check the recharge options, before recharging the number. After that they have to write the exact recharge amount.
On the other hand, the telco has launched a new plan for its broadband customers, where it is offering 100GB data at 10Mbps speed. The catch here is that the speed will be reduced to 1Mbps once the data is over. The plan is available for 1 month. This plan also provides a subscription to video calling, voice calls, Jio applications, and video conferencing.
COAI Urges Consumers to Reduce Data Usage!
The news regarding COAI’s appeal to the public comes just as the data usage shot up by nearly 30% due to the nation-wide lockdown, work-from-home and social distancing measures adopted to contain the spread of coronavirus.
COAI Director General, Rajan Mathews said, “We are asking people for responsible usage of networks…to avoid any trivial use of internet and networks…so that remote working, online education, digital healthcare, payments and other critical services, can run smoothly and uninterrupted.”
His appeal highlighted the fact that mobile users can also contribute to lower the surge by choosing to time their some of their online activities during off-peak hours, say early morning or late evening.
Mathews said that there has been a 20-30% increase in data demand since PM Modi has announced the 21 days lockdown, and the states and UTs took measures to encourage social distancing and Work From Home to check the spread of coronavirus.
OTT Platforms Taking Measures to Avoid Data Overflow!
Last week, COAI had asked the telecom department and over-the-top (OTT) companies such as Netflix, Hotstar, Voot, and Amazon Prime Video to lower the streaming resolution to help mitigate mobile and broadband network congestion. Many OTT players in Europe like Disney+, Netflix have reduced the streaming quality to prevent internet overflow.
Netflix had said it will lower traffic on telecom networks by 25% while maintaining the quality of service for users in India.
Facebook has said it will temporarily reduce bit rates for videos on its platform and Instagram in India.
Companies like Amazon Prime Video are also temporarily lowering bit rates – a measure of how much data is being transferred – to take off the pressure on telecom network infrastructure.