Mobile tariff hike: Cong blames govt for Rs 34,824 cr burden on public

New Delhi, July 5 (UNI) The Congress on Friday accused the government for allowing private telecom operators – Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, to increase mobile tariffs within days after the general elections were over, a move that would put a financial burden of whopping Rs 34,824 crore per annum on the general public.

Two things stand out – Firstly, the date of announcement of increase of tariffs, appears to be clearly in consultation with each other by the three Private Cell Phone Companies. Secondly, the date of effective implementation of increased tariffs is the same, Congress General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala said addressing a press conference at the AICC headquarters here.

Effective 03.07.2024, the three private cellphone companies have increased their tariffs by an average of 15 per cent. These three private cellphone companies have a market share of 91.6 per cent, or 109 Crore cellphone users out of a total of 119 Crore cellphone users as on 31.12.2023, he added.

Accusing the Government of pursuing the same “Crony Capitalism” the Congress said that the Modi government must answer that how can private cellphone companies be permitted to “unilaterally increase” Cellphone tariffs by Rs 34,824 crore annually without any oversight and regulation by the Government.

“Has the Modi Government and TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) abdicated their duty and responsibility towards 109 Crore Cellphone users?” Surjewala said.

Last week the mobile tariffs were increased by an average of 15 per cent first by Jio, followed by Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

The government or TRAI should have conducted a study on need of CAPEX or impact on profitability by purchase of spectrum through auction after taking into account the previous set of concessions on AGR payable under Telecom Policy, 1999 or deferring of “Spectrum Auction Installments” by Modi 2.0 on 20.11.2019 or other related factors, he said.

Cell phone market in India is an ‘Oligopoly’ with Reliance Jio having maximum 48 Crore Users, Airtel 39 Crore Users and Vodafone Idea has 22.37 Crore. Out of these, Jio and Airtel have a customer base of 87 Crore making them a virtual “Duopoly”.

Effective 3rd July 2024 (announced on 27th June, 2024), Reliance Jio has increased the tariff ranging from 12 per cent to 27 per cent (its most popular and affordable plan was increased by 22 per cent i.e. Rs. 155 to Rs. 189 per month) The average increase is 20 per cent. Similarly, effective 3rd July 2024 (announced on 28th June, 2024) Airtel has increased its charges from 11 per cent to 21 per cent. The average increase is 15 per cent.

Following them, effective 4th July 2024 (announced on 29th June, 2024), Vodafone Idea also increased tariffs from 10 per cent to 24 per cent. The average increase is 16 per cent.

It is clear that they have taken decision in consultation with each other, he said, adding the Prime Minister must answer to the people of India including the 109 crore affected cellphone users.

“How can all private cellphone companies increase their average tariffs by the same range of 15%-16%, despite the fact that their profitability, investment and CAPEX requirements are completely different? Why is the Modi Government then turning a blind eye to the same?” he said.

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