mobile bill due — no more free lunches for india telco users
I have a Vodafone bill from years ago. The due date is 23rd March 2016. The amount due is 3464.31. I paid that amount, and continued to pay a similar amount for a long time as I struggled to keep my self-employed business in the green. The next month bill, was slightly less, at 1602.53 rupees. Still a huge amount for a small business man such as myself. The next month was also the same amount.
Back then, I would check the ‘data tracker’ section of the vodafone app, almost everyday. If I crossed my 8 GB limit, Vodafone would start charging me a bomb.
I look at my most recent bill (November 2019), and I see that, it is 680.86 rupees. I think I have some 50 GB or so of usage allowed. I have unlimited outgoing, both local and STD. I also have free movies, and what not. I cannot remember when was the last time I looked at the data tracker section of the vodafone app, or even opened the app itself.
Who was over charging whom?
I read on the news that, there is word that Vodafone may have to shut shop unless the government comes in and bails it out. I understand the concept of bailouts. America did it to the car industry during the last financial crisis. Every now and then, BSNL, Air India and such get bailouts.
But why would Vodafone, a privately run corporation, in a market filled with only 3 players, in a country with huge amount of users, struggle to remain profitable? I can only speak at my own micro, personal vodafone bill level. How did I end up getting more data, more services for even less money.
Lastly, all this talk about bailout came because of a past due tax verdict. This is also sort of confusing. If I were contesting a tax bill, I would make provisions to ensure that, if the verdict does not go my way, I should be in a position to pay that bill.
All in all, looking back, I kind of feel like, every month, I was being overcharged by Vodafone, and they made a tidy profit from every customer they overcharged for years. Inevitably, someone is going to notice that, this is a business opportunity. Looks like the smart folks at Reliance, did notice. They came in with their own network, and boom, everything changed forever.
Long story short, everybody and their grandmother is watching tiktok videos on thier mobile computing device.
Party has to end sometime
Even after everybody around me kept switching to Jio (or just dual-simming it like there is no tomorrow), I held on to my vodafone connection. For one thing, iPhones dont support dual sims. Second, thank the gods, my business was doing well so i did not mind an expensive bill. Eventually, looks like enough customers complained and Vodafone (and other telecom folks) also reduced their tariffs.
There was irony in this.
Previously, Vodafone was overcharging me a ton. Now, it looks like they were giving me services at cost, or perhaps, at a loss! That’s my assumption for I have no data to prove that. I also dont know how Jio continues to be so cheap because running a telecom and providing such high quality services must cost a lot of money. Same goes to Airtel as well, I suppose.
So, as a everyday guy, I must assume, all 3 players are right now providing services at cost or loss. And, look at that, we have a oligopoly. Gone are the days when we had like half a dozen telecom companies to choose from. Its silly but I really miss those cool ads that all these companies used to release every year to attract customers. When was the last time we saw any ads from Vodafone or Airtel or Jio?
Here come the bill increasers!
Anyway, its time to start paying the bills (debt servicing, shareholders, inverstors) and that means, I can expect a email from Vodafone any time now, saying that my post paid bill (stuck at 600 something bucks for over a year) will soon be revised by 40 % or 50%. I also don't think, they will stop at that.
For me personally, I dont know if it will make a difference. I already have experience paying thousands of rupees in mobile phone bills. In fact, I felt a little jealous for the new kids who were paying a few hundred bucks for unlimited 4G data. So, if the bills go back up again, I should be okay.
What about the rest of the folks, especially that grandmother who is watching tiktok. How will her grandson explain why her app has stopped loading new videos, which were working just fine a few weeks ago?