COAI: Telcos Need Govt Support to Extend Benefits to Prepaid Users

Telcos in the country were asked by TRAI to offer free talktime and extend validity of prepaid users during lockdown

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All three telcos were asked to take care of their prepaid mobile users.
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Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) on Thursday said in case the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and the government still feel the need for extension of benefits to all prepaid feature phone subscribers, then this should be provided in the form of a subsidy to the telecom sector like many other essential services.

"This could be adequately compensated from the USO Fund where more than Rs 51,500 crore is being lying unutilised as on 31 March 2020," COAI said in a letter to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

The industry association said that adequate measures have been taken by telecom operators to support low-income users, who genuinely need help to stay connected, despite the financial stress being faced by the sector.

Expectation of extending benefit to all prepaid users, even those who have the means to recharge, is not appropriate, it said.

Providing benefits indiscriminately even to privileged customers would amount to "unjustified subsidy" to a larger section "at a steep loss to industry", it has argued.

COAI also said that the value of benefits announced by telcos for low-income users, including extension of validity and talktime credit, is estimated to be over Rs 600 crore, even on conservative basis.

This letter comes 24 hours after the TRAI had sent individual letters to all three telcos Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio, asking them to offer free talktime and validity benefits to all of their prepaid users, instead of a select few, as recharge facilities remain unavailable during the lockdown.

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