With Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel deciding to switch off low Arpu (average realisation per user) subscribers — those who spend less than Rs 35 a month — from their network, roughly 250 million 2G users stand to lose their mobile connection. Currently, while Bharti has about 100 million users who are below Rs 35 a month bracket, for Vodafone Idea the number is higher at around 150 million. While Bharti has come out with seven pan-India plan beginning at Rs 35, Vodafone has come out with five plans where also the lowest re-charge is Rs 35 a month.
“We have about 330 million customers in wireless, but if you look at the pattern of consumption across the base you will find that there is a very large number of customers, some of whom we acquired from Telenor and some that we have ourselves, about 100 million customers with very low levels of Arpu. So, these Arpus are sort of low double-digit,” Bharti Airtel CEO and managing director (India & South Asia) Gopal Vittal said.
While declining to share the number of subscribers they have in the low Arpu category, Vodafone Idea CEO Balesh Sharma said, “ It was a substantial number that were using it either only for incoming or had got Arpus below that of the average or that of unlimited customers. The Arpu of non-unlimited is about a fourth of the Arpu of the customers who take the unlimited plan. Therefore, everybody who goes up the chain is an upside, even within the non-unlimited, because now he or she is paying a rupee in the Rs 35 a month package, so that is an upside versus those who were not paying us even a rupee, unless many of them choose instead to go to unlimited package which is also very good for us because then there is an Arpu that increases there.”