While a hike in mobile call and data rates is seen as imminent, given the aggressive bidding for spectrum, some telecom operators are reportedly planning a gradual hike in voice rates and bring down data charges.
Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea are the ones planning such a dual pricing strategy, reports Hindustan Times, citing senior executives of the companies.
The plan to consider reducing data charges stems from the fact that more users are preferring high-data usage plans, enabling operators to bring down costs.
The objective behind the dual price strategy is to see that users do not switch their service providers because of the hike.
"There will be an increase in telecom tariff, but will be calibrated. Operators cannot risk losing consumers and minutes of usage with a sudden hike in tariff," HT quoted Romal Shetty, head of telecom practice at consultancy firm KPMG, as saying.
However, operators such as Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices, Aircel, Sistema and Uninor are planning a modest hike of 8.8 paise to 13 paise per minute for voice and data, adds HT.
But there is a feeling among industry experts that the hike may not happen immediately, for two reasons – inflation and intense competition.
"For at least next 10-12 months, tariffs will not rise due to high spectrum costs in the recent auction, but will be due to external factors such as inflation," director general of Cellular Operators Association of India Rajan Mathews said.
"There cannot be any hike in the tariff, the number players and the competition will ensure, prices are affordable," communications ministry secretary Rakesh Garg said.
The government had said that the bidding for spectrum in the recent round of auction would result in an increase of about 1.3 paise per minute.