Days of free 5G may soon be over: Airtel and Reliance Jio may charge more for 5G, here’s how

Days of free 5G may soon be over. For over a year, Jio and Airtel have wooed customers with unlimited 5G data at 4G prices. But this honeymoon period is nearing its end. Analysts predict that in the second half of 2024, Airtel and Reliance Jio may start charging for 5G. According to a report in Economic Times, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel are likely to withdraw their unlimited 5G data plans for premium customers and charge at least 5-10% more for 5G services — compared to 4G — from the second half of 2024.
The move is said to be aimed to drive monetisation and boost revenue growth, analysts said. Industry experts also expect the two telecom operators to raise mobile tariffs by at least 20% in the September quarter of 2024 to improve their RoCE (return on capital employed) amid intensive investments on 5G and higher customer acquisition costs. The two other telecom players in the Indian market Vodafone-Idea and government-owned BSNL are still to introduce 5G services.
May roll out 5G-specific plans
“With rising focus on monetisation and 5G coverage near completion, we believe the telcos (Jio and Airtel) may stop offering unlimited 5G data to their higher-ARPU data customers and announce 5G-specific plans towards 2HCY24,” Jefferies said in a research note.
The global brokerage company further added that while the absolute price-points for Airtel and Reliance Jio’s 5G plans may be 5-10% higher than 4G, the telecom major may bundle 30-40% additional data in such plans to spur adoption and drive market share gains at the expense of cash-strapped Vodafone Idea (Vi).
Incidentally at Airtel’s last earnings call in November 2023, managing director Gopal Vittal had ruled out charging more for 5G services anytime soon. He, however, said that Airtel won’t hesitate to take the lead in raising overall mobile tariffs at the right point to boost monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) levels to around Rs 250 from a little over Rs 200 currently.
Between them, Jio and Airtel already have around 125 million 5G subscribers, and the country’s total 5G user base is set to exceed 200 million by the end of 2024.

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