Reliance Communications’ 4G upgrade could drive up data tariff

by T Thomas


Old 599 plan

Even as its Reliance Mobile Stores began handing out 4G SIM cards to CDMA users, Reliance Communications has tweaked its prepaid and postpaid GSM tariff plans across the country in anticipation of the 4G upgrade.

While earlier, Reliance GSM used to have postpaid plans with unlimited data in non-3G circles, now the data benefits have been capped at 5 GB only.

The reason is not that difficult to fathom. While the company can afford to give unlimited data on 2G, it cannot do the same when the customer is on a 4G network.

For example, Reliance Communications used to have a plan with a rent of around Rs 1,300 in certain non-3G circles which used to give a huge amount of voice, SMS and roaming benefits along with unlimited (2G) data.

New 599 plan

However, now the Rs 1,299 plans offer only 5 GB of data.

Another example is the Rs 599 plan, which  used to offer unlimited data and 4000 minutes of voice calls per month for Rs 599 in certain 2G-only circles (see the photograph above.)

However, the current 599 plan gives just 2 GB of free data in these circles (though the 599 plan still offers 4,000 voice minutes in some circles and 1500 voice minutes in others).


What this suggests is that 4G users could be migrated to GSM plans, instead of being allowed to keep their CDMA plans. It could also be that the GSM plans have been rationalized by RCom as part of its preparation for the eventual offering of 4G services to all its GSM subscribers.

However, going by our sources, chances of CDMA users being allowed to keep their existing plans after being upgraded to 4G are zero. The operator, however, is offering free 10 GB of 4G data as an initial offer.

That leaves one big question: How much will high-volume Reliance 4G customers have to shell out for high-speed data after they move from the old technology to 4G?


The answer to this question may lie in the new, modified GSM plans.

First let us look at the new postpaid plans. Here, there are two types — regular ones for mobile users and ‘dongle plans’ for USB data card users.

In regular postpaid, the highest data allocation of any plan right now is 5 GB, at a rental of Rs 1,299. On top of that, you can use data top-ups at the rate of 3 GB for Rs 492.

Since this amount of data is not enough for high-volume users, we must look at ‘GSM dongle plans’ instead.

Here, RCom offers cheaper plans. Under postpaid dongle plans, you get 15 GB for Rs 1,500, or Rs 100 per GB. However, this is much more expensive than CDMA, where postpaid users were getting high-speed data at just Rs 28 per GB (40 GB for Rs 1,120) — one of the cheapest tariffs in the country.

Therefore, if you still want to save money in RCom GSM, you have to move to prepaid.

In prepaid GSM, Reliance Communications offers 15 GB of high-speed data for Rs 1,300, which is Rs 200 cheaper than the equivalent postpaid plan, and translates to Rs 86.7 per GB. The equivalent rate for prepaid users in CDMA was Rs 66.7 per GB.


As a result, for prepaid CDMA users upgrading to 4G, the difference in pricing will not be as high as it is for a postpaid CDMA user upgrading to GSM/4G.

Though more expensive than CDMA plans, RCom’s GSM high-speed data plans are considerably cheaper than those of players like Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular. These operators offer only 10 GB for Rs 1,300 in most circles.

In other words, RCom GSM is offering a per-GB price of Rs 86.7 in prepaid while GSM incumbents charge Rs 100-135 per GB for their 4G offerings.

The long and short of it is that unless RCom introduces new packs in GSM, people who upgrade from CDMA to GSM-4G could see their data expenses going up.
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