Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel are reportedly contemplating the withdrawal of their unlimited 5G data plans for premium customers, opting to charge approximately 5-10% more for 5G services compared to existing 4G rates. Analysts anticipate this strategic move to commence in the latter half of 2024, aimed at enhancing monetization efforts and boosting revenue growth.
Over the past year, both Jio and Airtel have enticed users with 5G services at 4G rates, coupled with unlimited data offerings. However, as the national rollout of 5G services approaches completion, industry experts predict a shift in focus towards monetization, leading to the cessation of unlimited 5G data offerings for higher-ARPU (average revenue per user) customers.
Jefferies, a global brokerage firm, highlighted this potential shift in a research note, suggesting that with the completion of 5G coverage, Jio and Airtel may introduce 5G-specific plans in the second half of 2024. While the absolute price points for these plans might be 5-10% higher than 4G, operators could include 30-40% additional data to incentivize adoption and gain market share, potentially impacting cash-strapped Vodafone Idea (Vi), which is yet to launch 5G services.
Despite this speculation, during Airtel's last earnings call in November 2023, Gopal Vittal, the managing director, dismissed immediate plans to charge more for 5G services. He cited the current lack of applications fully utilizing the benefits of 5G technology. However, Vittal affirmed that Airtel remains open to adjusting overall mobile tariffs at the right juncture to elevate monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) levels from slightly over ₹200 to approximately ₹250.