Airtel, Reliance Jio Likely to Start Charging for 5G Ending Unlimited 5G Data Offers


5G services began rolling out in India in October 2022. Reliance Jio and Airtel, two of the country’s leading telecom operators, were the first to offer 5G services to their customers. They have over 125 million 5G subscribers between them. The companies have been offering 5G connectivity at existing 4G rates and including unlimited 5G data with select plans. However, experts now suggest that the firms may soon stop their unlimited 5G offering and will likely increase 5G plan charges over the existing 4G plans.

An Economic Times report citing analysts suggests that Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel will discontinue their unlimited 5G data plans for customers and charge at least 5-10 percent more for 5G services compared to 4G beginning in the second half of 2024 to stimulate monetisation and revenue growth.

Jio and Airtel have been providing 5G connectivity at 4G rates, along with unlimited data plans, to entice existing subscribers to upgrade to the next-generation wireless broadband service for almost a year now, the report notes, adding that analysts predict this will soon change as Jio and Airtel prepare to roll out 5G services countrywide and focus monetisation as adoption levels rise. Notably, the number of 5G users in India is said to exceed 200 million by the end of 2024.

The report adds that industry experts predict that the two telecom firms will increase mobile charges by at least 20 percent in the September quarter of 2024 to increase their RoCE (return on capital employed) while simultaneously tackling investments in 5G and greater customer acquisition costs.

While Airtel and Jio’s purported 5G plans are likely to be 5-10 percent more expensive than the 4G ones, the network providers could include 30-40 percent more data in these bundles to promote usage, and also improve their market share in the meantime since Vodafone Idea (Vi), another leading telecom operator, is yet to debut 5G services in the country, the report added.

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