Pre-paid mobile users to get SMS updates on data consumption

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All pre-paid mobile users will soon get updates on data usage from their mobile operators. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has made it mandatory for operators to give the updates through SMS every time a subscriber uses data services.

Such alerts are already being provided for voice calls but most operators do not offer this facility when it comes to data services. TRAI has set a 45-day deadline for the operators to extend the facility to data usage.

About 96 per cent of the mobile consumers are in the pre-paid category and unlike post-paid consumers, the prepaid consumers do not get any bills for their usage and the amount charged. TRAI move comes after consumer groups expressed concern that some of the service providers are not providing the information relating to data usage.

The new regulations have mandated that the service provider shall, immediately on making any deduction from the account of a prepaid consumer, provide the information through SMS, relating to the subscriber's usage for all calls and data.

Colour code

TRAI has also introduced a colour code to help subscribers differentiate between various types of pre-paid vouchers. At present, often top-up vouchers contain special offers for a limited time period such as free night minutes, and free SMS. Marketing of such products is not done in a fully transparent manner resulting in some consumers buying the voucher without knowing the validity period.

Users, therefore, end up having to forfeit some monetary value after expiry of the prescribed validity period for the extra benefits of which he may not be aware.

TRAI has now sought to standardise the pre-paid offerings by making it mandatory for operators to issue vouchers in three different colours. A person who intends to take a new connection need to activate a Plan Voucher for enrolling into a tariff plan.

This voucher will be red in colour and does not add any monetary value to the subscriber's account. Once enrolled into the network of a service provider and having subscribed to a tariff plan, the next requirement of a prepaid consumer is limited to acquiring additional monetary value by way of buying a top-up voucher. The top-up voucher will be green in colour and adds monetary value in rupees to the subscriber's account. There is no restriction in terms of validity period or usage on this voucher.

For limited period offers, there will be a Special Tariff Voucher (STV), coloured yellow. The STV having a time limit, not exceeding 90 days, has necessarily to be used within the stipulated time failing which the balance available in the STV will lapse. The changes in tariffs effected through STVs are only for the period specified in the STV. After expiry of the specified period, the free or concessional usage will cease to exist and the rates of the relevant tariff plan of the consumer will become applicable.

(This article was published on January 6, 2012)
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